Unlawful discrimination claims are part of the employment landscape. Even when a company enacts and enforces anti-discrimination policies, there is a fair chance that one or more employees will bring a discrimination case at some point. In some instances, a rogue employee discriminates or harasses another in violation of the law and company policy. Occasionally, an employee will grossly exaggerate a work situation to support a civil claim. In many cases, the company has affirmative defenses that may absolve them from liability.

Even if discrimination exists, there is no case if the employee has not suffered any harm. The employer can assert lack of adverse action as a defense to the claim. Some employees/company applicants claim that they were aggrieved by discrimination in some manner such as: denial of employment, wrongful termination, demotion, denial of promotion and undesirable assignment. However, if the company has taken no action, nor denied any opportunities to the complaining party, the employee was not injured. Civil claims and suits are designed primarily to compensate those wrongfully harmed. If no harm occurred, then there is no loss to compensate.

Another potentially viable defense in certain cases is “reasonable precautions,” which can be asserted when an employee engages in wrongful, discriminatory behavior without the management’s knowledge. A company’s lack of awareness of unlawful action is not enough to defeat such a claim. The company must have had policies in effect forbidding the behavior and have exercised due care in enforcing those policies among the employees. Even a well-run organization can have rogue employees that act outside the bounds of the law and company policy. Moreover, the guilty party will often go to great lengths to hide poor behavior from supervisors and managers. A company that acted reasonably in preventing or curing discrimination can be absolved of liability for any claims.

Finally, a company facing an employment discrimination claim may allege that the employee failed to utilize relevant company resources to address his or her complaints. Many companies have programs to receive, investigate and address claims of unlawful discrimination. These programs are usually set up so that the employee is protected from further harm or retaliation for filing a complaint. In some cases, the employee chooses not to use the company anti-discrimination resources. The company can argue that the employee’s failure to seek intervention internally deprived management of the ability to investigate and to correct the problem. This can be a factor in assessing the credibility of the complainant and/or in mitigating damages for which the company may be liable.

Garcia & Gurney, A Law Corporation is one of central California’s most respected business and employment law firms. If your company has an employment discrimination matter pending, feel free to contact us online or call 925-468-0400 to schedule an initial consultation at our Pleasanton office.