State and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, and citizenship.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversees harassment and discrimination complaints in the workplace and reports record numbers of discrimination filings almost yearly. Race and sex discrimination as well as retaliation are the most frequently filed cases, but there have also been regular increases in the number of cases filed for disability, religion and national origin.

Harassment judgments routinely exceed $1,000,000; plus, legal fees for defending a civil case in court average about $250,000. If that’s not scary enough, think about this: sexual harassment complaints are five times more likely to be filed against small businesses, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

To defend against costly lawsuits, employers must understand these complex laws, adopt effective written policies, implement employee training, and establish clear, effective procedures for the resolution of any complaint or allegation.