Friday, November 1, 2019

What Founders Can Learn From The Founders Brewing Case & Discrimination In A Workplace - Founders Under 40™ Group Shares

"Generally speaking, the damage that can be caused to a brand because they're defending a lawsuit can be greater than it would cost to settle a lawsuit. Many times, when faced with these situations, companies get more concerned about being right than doing what's right."

"They could have taken accountability that they have a culture problem and instituted a zero-tolerance policy," says Van Dyke. "Zero tolerance creates zero questions. People know exactly where they are."

"... businesses shouldn't wait to start that work until after there's a problem. "

"It's one thing to try to survive the news cycle," Dickens says. "If you’re fortunate enough to have progressive customers of conscience, they're going to come in looking for what you’ve told them will change."

[But Founders also acknowledged in court documents that some of Evans' claims were true — namely, that employees in two separate taprooms called him the n-word and were not immediately fired. That alone should prompt co-founders Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens to look deeper, within themselves and their business operations. ]

Some additional sources about Founders Brewing Discrimination Case:

***Please note that this content is not meant for specific case or regional advice and I'm not the original author. Please seek proper information and advice. This is meant as a general resource.***


Discrimination in the workplace is still an important issue to understand and be informed about, even in [2019]. Specifically, it’s important to know the laws, recognize what kinds of discrimination are out there, become aware in general of how to prevent discrimination, and learn what to do if it happens. It’s noteworthy that, in general, most discriminatory situations at small businesses happen by accident or by an unrealized habit.]

[As we’ll discuss later, the best way to avoid discrimination is by standardizing your hiring and performance management practices.]

[There are 3 important federal laws regarding discrimination in the workplace. They are all enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your state or city may also have additional laws around sexual orientation, gender identity and other identifications people may have.]

[Before we get into the specifics of each law, our best advice and rule of thumb is that:

    Anything that is personal in nature, appearance related, socially related, or otherwise NOT related to the job at hand— leave those topics out of your hiring, promotion, job duties, and firing practices, regardless of the number of employees you have.]

To avoid common mistakes, consider HR training for yourself and top management.

What is Considered Workplace Discrimination by Law?

[In the eyes of the law, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment at your business. The two main areas are:

1. Anything to do with the actual employment from hire to fire, including:

  •     Hiring and firing;
  •     Compensation or pay rate, job assignment, or classification of employees (i.e. exempt versus non-exempt);
  •     Job transfers, promotions, or layoffs;
  •     Job postings;
  •     Recruitment practices;
  •     Job or promotion testing or assessments;
  •     Use of company facilities (i.e. bathrooms or conference rooms);
  •     Training and apprenticeship programs;
  •     Employee benefit eligibility;
  •     Vacation, sick, and other paid and unpaid leave arrangements.

2. Forms of discriminatory behavior, like harassment or retaliation, including:

  •     Harassment on the basis of any protected class like national origin or race (including sexual harassment);
  •     Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
  •     Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of protected classes; and
  •     Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a protected class, like being married to someone who is disabled.


Is Your Workplace Discriminatory?

Also know that it’s not too late to change your workplace and to get some anti-discriminatory processes and training in place, which we talk about in the section below.
If you know you have a problem or if you have been served paperwork on a discrimination suit, you’ll also want to look up how to handle a discrimination lawsuit.

Prevention and resolution of discrimination in the workplace. You want to fix or prevent this issue now; this is not something you sweep under a rug or turn a blind eye to.

You could introduce some discrimination-related questions on an employee engagement survey to check on the cultural health of your business.

How can you ask about discrimination? Well, you could word some questions like follows (and leave room for commentary):

    Do you feel like opportunities for advancement are available and fair at our business?
    Do you feel like we recruit from a diverse talent pool?
    Do you feel that our business respects the values of all of its employees?

If you are noticing a rapid exit of employees leaving, you might have a discrimination problem. In addition to an employee engagement survey, you’ll want to conduct exit interviews of these recently leaving or those employees that have left.



5 Steps to Prevent Discrimination in the Workplace

[The best way to reduce discrimination in the workplace is to create and follow a set of practices designed to eliminate individual bias.

What does this mean? This means using standardized interviews and clearly defined performance metrics to hire, manage, promote and compensate your staff.

Step 1: Create a Standardized Hiring Process

One big component to preventing discrimination is to have a rock solid hiring process. This helps to ensure you’re evaluating candidates objectively and fairly. The hiring process should include standards around:

  • Job descriptions with neutral wording that relates to the job at hand. In general, you should avoid any slang and buzzwords in order to cast the widest net. We recommend working from a template.
  • Have a trained professional or unbiased professional reviewing the resumes that come in. If that professional is YOU, consider taking a training course in recruitment or consider asking for a training session from an HR consultant.
  • Interviewing processes, including phone screens and in-person interviewing (we recommend using a phone screen template and a structured interview for the in-person interview)
  • Using an applicant tracking system or recruitment software component to track notes and for evaluating candidates on an apples-to-apples basis
  • Creating an offer letter template (with standards around employee benefits, paid time off, and other perks by seniority and experience)
  • Distributing an employee handbook as soon as the employee starts (with an anti-discrimination policy)
  • Then, once an employee is up and running, you will want to make sure that their tenure with your company is also discrimination-free. You can do that by:

Step 2: Create a Standardized Performance Management & Compensation Policy

Once an employee is onboarded and trained, you will want to make sure they are set up for standardized track at your business that is based around good behavior and strong performance metrics. Aside from the employee handbook outlining behavior standards, you will want to also have:

  •     A documentation process for behavioral infractions (like an employee write up form)
  •     A progressive discipline policy
  •     A documentation process for performance, both good and bad (like performance reviews)
  •     A full performance management system is what we recommend (you could also try performance management software to help you)
  •     A compensation plan that is based around performance and linked to your performance management system
  •     A strong, secure place to store and track of all these items like payroll software or HR software

Even though you already have an employee handbook, you will want to make sure you have a strong, supported policy on harassment and discrimination.

Step 3: Have a Policy on Harassment and Discrimination

Discrimination is treated almost like a dirty word in the workplace. But if you don’t talk about discrimination and diversity, you can’t make any progress on it. Here are some ways you can start a dialogue with your employees on diversity and preventing workplace discrimination:

  •     Add a diversity or inclusion statement to your company values, or remind people of the values you already have around diversity.
  •     Take your policy from your handbook and post it on a poster in the break room or other high-traffic area.
  •     Make sure your workplace labor law posters are current, and when you put up new ones, use that as a time to communicate to employees what they mean.

Once you have started to talk about diversity and discrimination in the workplace, you then need to:

Step 4: Train People On It

People don’t know what they don’t know. It sounds silly, recall our example situations listed above. Our examples involved people, probably good people by all intents and purposes, who didn’t even realize they were being discriminatory. You and your employees are no different.

While many of us know the social rights and wrongs and things we should not say or do in the workplace, it’s the more complex and subtle situations that need some training.

  •     Find some online resources for training, including directly from the EEOC, or by asking your payroll or HR service provider for some.
  •     Hire a diversity consultant. There are many out there who specialize in corporate training. You might want this option especially for your hiring managers.
  •     Create some role playing and open forum for discussion. This is not a good option for every company though since this won’t always lead to “real” behavior and it may make people very uncomfortable and not participate; this could be something you do in addition to one or both of the first two options.
  •     Don’t forget to document any training executed and create an electronic or paper file on who attended and what the training was, and when it was.

Once people are trained, just like in any aspect of work, you then need to hold your employees accountable to the standards your business has set.

Step 5: Hold People Accountable

Once you have set standards and trained people at your business in non-discrimination and inclusion, you’ll want to hold people accountable to these standards. Pay attention to the small things, such as how people talk to each other, even in a casual sense. Is there an employee who always patronizes another one, or one who teases another for being young or old? While you don’t need to be the word police, you can keep an eye for things and provide feedback, promptly and with documentation, to employees who need a bit of guidance.

  • Also, notice situations that make people uncomfortable. Nip behaviors in the bud when you notice awkwardness or tension — some of those can lead to full-on discrimination.
  • Finally, create an anonymous reporting system. It can be as simple as a suggestion box on the wall, like a restaurant.


5 Steps to Resolve Discrimination in the Workplace

If you think you have a discrimination problem at your workplace, we highly recommend that you consult with an employment lawyer as soon as possible.

In addition to consulting an attorney, here are some suggestions to resolve your potential discrimination problem(s):

Step 1: Document Your Problem(s)

You need to start a paperwork trail of acknowledging the problem and the steps you are going to take to solve it. You might need to consider creating personnel files if you don’t already have them. Try to document things in a clear, concise manner with an unbiased description of the events, who was involved, and the dates and times. You also will want to make sure that anyone you are documenting issues from is informed on them, which leads into step 2.

Step 2: Make Changes

If the problem is a specific person and you have plenty of documented issues, you will want to take a firm stance on this and make a change. You can most likely skip straight to firing the person, or, you can put them on a final warning if you want to give them one more chance. It will really depend on how bad the situation is and how bad the fallout has been with the rest of the employees. If you’re not sure what to do, consult your attorney.

Once you have made any personnel changes that you need to, consider our options stated before. Make changes in your office culture by including diversity and nondiscrimination in your values, and in visible places to keep it front of mind for your team.

Step 3: Train People

You still need to train everyone on diversity, inclusion and the laws in a work environment. Like we said earlier, consider hiring an outside consultant, especially if you think you already have or had a problem. If you were a 3rd party like a lawyer looking at this, bringing in a professional to help is going to be a lot more effective than using an online course or something else passive. Invest in this portion to save your business potential liability later.

Step 4: Lead by Example

As the business owner and probable face of the company, you need to lead by example, and this includes most likely in your personal life as well. Make nondiscrimination the way of your words and seek out ways to be inclusive in your workplace. This also will help your employee base to see that you are serious and will increase their buy-in.

Step 5: Hold People Accountable

Use a progressive discipline policy, or create a policy that allows you to skip those steps and move straight to firing when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. You will want to make sure that you hold people accountable to the policy and document any and all disciplinary actions taken.

Even with preventative measures, things can still happen in any workplace.

5 Steps to Take If You Are Accused of Discrimination in the Workplace

If you are accused or sued for discrimination in the workplace, you will want to immediately consult your attorney for advice. You will then, most likely, want to cooperate as much as possible with the investigating authority. Follow our 5 steps below if you are served with a discrimination suit:

1. Get an attorney

First, you will want to consult your attorney or find one as soon as possible. For this type of lawsuit or accusation, you will want an attorney who is specialized in representing small businesses, an expert in employment law, or is an expert at discrimination in the workplace cases.

If you don’t already have an attorney to speak to, you can find one using local community reviewing sites like Yelp or by asking your network who represents them in legal matters (you don’t need to say why!)

2. Collect documents/evidence as directed

Then, collect and document what you need to handle the issue and as directed by your attorney. Make sure you have at least 2 copies of everything so that you can have one and so can the opposing side. We recommend making at least 3 copies to be sure.

3. Cooperate with the attorneys

Things will go a lot more smoothly if you just cooperate. Stay in composure, stick to the facts, and cooperate fully with all the events as they unfold.

4. Keep quiet

This is a situation that you will want to keep completely confidential between yourself and your attorney. You will probably need to involve some employees in the investigation process. Ask your attorney about if/how you can require them to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the situation.

5. Stay positive

This is going to be a difficult situation with a lot of interpretation and looking into your business by other people. Make sure that you take care of yourself and take time to relieve stress. You will need to keep up appearances, and you still have a business to run after all— remember that this will pass!

This is when having organized personnel files and clear documentation on all training events can help prevent or settle any claims on discrimination in the workplace.


[Whether you’re on the front lines of a social movement or struggling with discrimination in your daily life, it can be difficult to survive, let alone find your way forward. Here are five important tips to help you in your journey:

1. Embrace Your Beauty and Strength. 

Find ways to embrace and celebrate your identity—the strength and beauty of you being you. Read books, talk to people, and go to identity-affirming events. Call upon trusted friends and relatives, people with a healthy sense of self, for support. Also consider seeking the help of a trained professional in your area to create solutions custom-fit to your particular situation and needs.

2. Take Good Care of Yourself and Learn to Cope. 

One of the best ways you can fight discrimination is by taking good care of yourself. Your survival is not just important; it’s an act of revolution. Make your life revolutionary by exercising, eating healthy, and finding ways to de-stress every day.

3. Stand Up For Yourself. 

Let others know how their words and actions have affected you and those you care about. Fight for your rights. In order to effect change, people need to be made aware that a problem exists. Contact your elected representatives, the ACLU, and the Office for Civil Rights. The more people who can see the real life impact and injustice of what’s happening, the more we can fight to end discrimination once and for all.

4. Strategize and Know the Consequences Before You Act. 

There truly is a time for daring and a time for caution, and an intelligent person knows the difference. Weigh the costs and benefits and decide for yourself what you’re able, and willing, to do. Take stock of yourself. Capitalize on your strengths, and put a plan in motion to compensate for your weaknesses. Do your best to protect yourself and others and to minimize risk. Timing is critical. Strategize carefully to achieve maximum impact.

5. Reach Out and Organize. 

Don’t go it alone. People really are stronger, and safer, when they stand together. Mobilize your friends, family, and co-workers. We’re stronger when we stand together, share our stories, and make our voices heard. Uniting with others who face a similar situation as you do can help you obtain the resources and social support you need to survive. They can even give you a base to mobilize should you decide to organize and fight for your rights.

 ***Please note that this content is not meant for specific case or regional advice and I'm not the original author. Please seek proper information and advice. This is meant as a general resource.***   To further our founder, the team, and the founders community , Please feel free to email: /  

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