Are you susceptible to workplace harassment or discrimination charges?

The headlines are filled with people coming forward with claims of inappropriate contact, misuse of power, discrimination and toxic work environments.

Lumber Yards are not immune to these claims and the potential fallout that ensues. What steps have you taken to minimize your risk? What risks are there?

This is a difficult issue, and many owners/managers stay away from dealing with it. Big mistake!

What to do to lessen the chances you will become involved in a claim against your firm, without breaking the bank or over-reacting:

Get a written policy in place – You can’t expect your employees to adhere to a standard that isn’t clearly defined. This policy needs to get into some detail to be effective. It needs to include clear language regarding managements lack of tolerance for bad behavior, and what actions will be taken should the policy be broken. Be careful when you craft the language of this policy – I like to give the following advice: “when considering your policy and the actions you will take if policy is broken, imagine it’s your top producing salesperson that is involved”.

Remember the policy has to be applied evenly to all, regardless of title, length of service, performance or other factors. Include in your policy the procedure that an employee should follow to report a violation of the policy.

Once the policy is written, hold meetings with every employee to discuss the policy, field questions, and reinforce your personal commitment to a non-discriminatory, non-toxic work place. Be sure to end the session with each employee in attendance signing a statement that says they attended the session, understand the policy, and will comply with it. File those acknowledgements in their personnel files.

From that point forward, walk the talk – for example, when you overhear a customer making an off color remark to one of your employees, speak up, let them know that it’s not okay, and that everyone in your yard is to be treated with respect. Same goes with employee interactions, don’t act as if you didn’t see it or hear it… step forward and confront it. This goes a long way towards creating the atmosphere, or environment that you need to have to reduce your exposure to claims. Its hard to defend your position when employees testify that you knew sexual harassment was going on and did nothing about it.

What are the risks if you don’t set a policy and stand firmly and consistently by it? There are several; the biggest is that you will face a very expensive lawsuit. Lesser risks include losing key employees, losing customers that feel harassed or don’t like dealing with a company that tolerates disrespect among its people, diminished reputation, difficulty in hiring talent, and others.

Times have changed; protect your business and your people by setting a policy and making a commitment to stand by it for the protection of all involved.

This blog was written by Tom Ford President & Partner at Impact 180 & Lumber Contacts Inc. Feel free
to contact Tom at,