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Ask an Expert: Dealing with Internal Discrimination Complaints

The fourth annual Dykema conference was crawling with knowledgeable lawyers, dental professionals and entrepreneurs looking to share their knowledge about Dental Service Organizations. Arlene Steinfield, senior counsel JD specializing in labor employment law, met with DMD to talk about her area of expertise and under what circumstances she works with DSOs. Watch or read below to learn more about how to deal with internal discrimination complaints.
DMD Staff
PUBLISHED: Monday, July 24, 2017

The fourth annual Dykema conference was crawling with knowledgeable lawyers, dental professionals and entrepreneurs looking to share their knowledge about Dental Service Organizations. Arlene Steinfield, senior counsel JD specializing in labor employment law, met with DMD to talk about her area of expertise and under what circumstances she works with DSOs. Watch or read below to learn more about how to deal with internal discrimination complaints.

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Interview Transcript (Modified for Readability)  
 
"If an employee comes forward internally and says, "I believe I'm being discriminated against on the basis of my age or my gender or some other protected characteristic or protected activity," the first thing to do would be to thank them for coming forward. Even though it's frustrating, it means that they have come to you internally and not yet gone to the government. [You must] ask them the basis for their claim and what has happened to lead them to believe they were treated impermissibly or discriminatorily. It's also very important to understand that in most states, it is not unlawful to treat somebody unfairly. What is unlawful is to treat them unjustly on account of that protected characteristic, such as gender, if you are treating men better than women. 
 
But the most important thing that I think an employer can do in that scenario is to listen and to hear it, and then try to establish a communication channel with the employee to get them to understand why their perception is not necessarily fact-based. But it's got to be done very respectfully, because the best way to get an employee to go running to a governmental agency is to treat them in a condescending manner or to pooh-pooh their complaints. There are some employees, however, who simply want to let you know, and they are intent on suing the company. In that case, you should definitely get counsel involved to guide you through the steps so that no one in management will say something they will later regret in a deposition." 
 
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