The worst time to find out one of your dealership employees has a complaint about discrimination or harassment is when you receive a letter from their attorney. It’s better to act in advance to prevent small issues from turning into major problems. Here are some issues you might have to deal with.

Outdated Employee Manual

Suppose an employee had asked a co-worker for a date and was refused, but that he (or she) kept on asking. The initial offer of a date wasn’t the problem, but the repeated advances were unwelcome. When you ask the person why they persisted in asking for dates, their response is “Nobody told me it was against company rules.”

You need an employee manual, and it must be current and relevant. Yes, you can add new pages to it periodically, train everybody on the new material, then document that you trained them.

Protect Their Privacy

Occasionally, some customers ask your female salespeople for their personal email addresses just to “stay in touch.” It’s awkward for your employee to say no, because they feel future commissions depend on the relationship. What is your official policy on that?

Why not have it put into place that a manager will call the customer, say thank you for their business, and then carefully explain that it is against strict company policy for sales staff to give personal email addresses to customers.  

Comments About Age, Physical Appearance, Military Status

These can be sensitive issues for some people. But you probably won’t hear them use words like discrimination or harassment in their complaints. That’s because they feel embarrassed to complain, or perhaps fear reprisal for doing so. But you can be attuned for remarks about these sensitive issues that can eventually lead to serious complaints. How so?

The quantity of comments is one indicator. What is simply a harmless or thoughtless remark as opposed to statements intended to intimidate, belittle or make someone feel ill at ease? The number of times you hear that type of remark coming from a specific person (or group of people) is an indicator.

Another example. Some people welcome compliments about their appearance, choice of clothes, jewelry and even hairstyle, but others absolutely don’t want to hear those comments. What patterns do you observe, what reactions tip you off that somebody is being abrasive, whether they realize it or not? Don’t ignore it until you get a letter from somebody’s attorney. Act, counsel, train, and document. Show you care.

Religious Beliefs

This has two parts. You can’t allow a work environment that makes staff feel uncomfortable because of what they believe, or what they don’t believe.

For example, all work has problems, but sales careers or work-for-commission (as with technicians), has the added stress of swings in income. It is common for people to convey good wishes toward struggling coworkers in a religious context. If that support is well received, then great.

But what if the recipient is offended by the beliefs expressed, and doesn’t welcome them? Then the giver must graciously refrain.

Ask Your Law Firm and Insurer for Help

The two best advisors for proactive help will be your dealer’s law firm and insurer. Both will have mountains of good information that will help you:

Create a working environment that makes all your employees feel safe and,

Helps you document that you are taking their safety seriously.

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