Large corporations find themselves at risk for expensive, time consuming, and brand-injuring lawsuits when they don’t take discrimination claims seriously.  The people that bring these suits have generally tried to go through the “proper channels” without much satisfaction.  Nike, Wal-Mart, and Uber and have been in the news recently for the worst kind of publicity, the big D – Discrimination. These headlines can damage an employer’s brand and financial health instantly, whether they are upheld by a court or not. These three corporations aren’t the only ones facing discrimination claims. Check out the statistics collected by the EEOC, the number of claims filed may surprise you. You might find it interesting to see the correlation to the types of claims and what was happening socially during that year.

As the leader of your business you might be asking yourself, “How can my company stay out of that mess or fix a situation I am already in?” If you’re an employer, there is no fail-proof solution. There is only risk mitigation. After 25 years of working for and consulting with the Fortune 50 in human capital strategies, I have leaned on these five principles:

Know Your Employment Strategy

This means figure out what type of employees you need. There should always be a mix of Full-Time, Part-Time, Contractors and Interns in your company. Each type has a different risk profile to the company that you must consider.

Set the Foundation and Be Ready for Difficult Conversations

Your foundation is what you set as the standard – in your employment contracts, your work environment, your behavior and how you approach correcting the behavior of your team when risk events happen. If you don’t talk openly about and demonstrate with your actions that the company values diversity and inclusion, then you are fostering an environment where bad, and even unlawful behavior will take root. When those kinds of issues fester, they surface in loud, expensive and disruptive ways with consequences to the people that work for you and the company. It is the leadership’s job to successfully manage conflict in the workplace and take immediate action in cases of discrimination.

Check Your Systems and Vendor Partners

Take the time to find out if your Human Resource software systems, Labor Compliance software tools and Infrastructure platforms are helping or hurting your efforts to mitigate risk. Staffing, recruiting, and outsourcing firms can be assets or liabilities as well. Take time to investigate how your company implements and utilizes vendor partner relationships. While contracts between vendors and the company are designed to limit culpability, a contract may not offer complete protection when things go south. Your vendor may offer you a solution that “works” but it may not be the best fit for your culture or company. It’s up to you to discover what is best for your company.

Pressure Test Your Processes

As a leader or business owner, we sometimes think that what we say needs to be done, gets done. Most of the time that’s true. When it comes to high loss/high risk elements, such as discrimination, you want to know where you stand. Test run all of your processes and ask yourself if you got the outcome you expected.  If the process for addressing discrimination comes up lacking, take action and make changes.

Keep Checking the Pulse

Go back periodically and check to see if anything broke.  If a procedure or staffing correction is needed, make it. The working world and its human risks will always be there. Stay aware and you will have fewer surprises.

My list hasn’t failed me yet and I still apply that list to my company, pēpəlwərk today. In fact, reducing the amount of risk that employers have when hiring was one of my motivations for starting the business. A software solution that brings fair, skills-based hiring practices to every employer.

The EEOC was created 53 yeas ago and 85% of employers admit they haven’t updated their procedures since. Labor statistics, EEOC claims, and large scale social issues and haven’t improved very much since. Perhaps because we haven’t demanded that they change. I recognize that these issues are complex and require social acts beyond my list. But, change has to start somewhere. It can start with you.