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Extinguish the Heat: Reflect AI's Answer to Rising Workplace Lawsuits

a man and a woman's legs under a table, with the man's hand on the woman's leg

True or false? It’s more likely for a fire to break out in an American workplace than it is for the business to be sued by an employee.

If you picked fire, think again. Roughly 67,500 people filed workplace discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2020, while 16,500 office and store fires occurred that year. That’s four times as many lawsuits as fires.

The heat — legally speaking — is not an anomaly. Employee lawsuits have been on the rise for decades. From 1987 to 2007, the number of employee lawsuits and termination lawsuits grew by 400% in the U.S., and the trend continues.

It’s happening amid commitments by company leaders to foster respectful workplaces, and despite the fact that some 71% of companies provide annual sexual harassment training.

What if AI could extinguish the inevitable legal heat in real time as you work? We think it can, and we’ll tell you how. Hold that thought for a moment.

The problem is pervasive, and growing. Last year, roughly 73,500 employees filed charges with the EEOC alleging discrimination by their employers. Those suits were filed at the federal level and did not include state or local claims. More than half the claims involved retaliation (which has accounted for more than half of all claims since 2018), while 34% centered on disability discrimination, 27% alleged racial discrimination, and 27% claimed sex discrimination. Sexual orientation discrimination charges have also risen steadily for the past five years, EEOC figures show.

If employees are hurting, employers are also feeling pain. The cost of defending against an employee lawsuit could run anywhere from $75,000 to $300,000, according to numerous published reports. In cases that go to federal court, employees stand a 70% chance of winning at least $165,000 and a 16% chance of winning $1 million, while the average award is about $500,000, reports Smart Business, an online media company.

As the numbers mount on both sides, it’s worth looking at a 2016 EEOC report on workplace harassment that concluded that harassment training, however well-meaning, is not working.

Part of the reason, according to Everfi, a social impact tech firm, is that online harassment modules focus on legal content that’s disconnected from employees’ everyday work. The judgmental tone of the lessons can also be off-putting.

The EEOC developed two programs in the aftermath of its report: Leading for Respect (for supervisors) and Respect in the Workplace (for employees), which define harassment, explain reporting procedures, explore what to do with those who derail policies, and advise how bystanders can intervene. The big difference is that instead of annual training events, the new direction is fostering year-round “workplace civility.”

That’s where Alphy’s Reflect AI can be key to building more sensitive and accurate conversations among employees wherever they work — in offices, or remotely.

Our email extension is an around-the-clock ally. It flags harmful, helpful, and unlawful language in workplace communication, before you hit “send.” Our proprietary AI is an answer to workplace lawsuits: It gives real time feedback, which helps with reducing the risk of costly litigation stemming from damaging language, while applauding and advancing effective communication.

Reflect AI checks for “isms”: racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and classism. It detects and flags communication that may be considered discriminatory in employment, with a focus on protected classes of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. It won’t tell you what to say or finish your sentences — it’s designed to make you aware of how your words are coming across to others. What happens after that is up to you.

On the flip side, Reflect AI encourages and applauds language that is empathetic, positive, confident, and respectful. For all of this, Reflect AI gives affirmative feedback through a patent-pending user interface of short text prompts and customized emojis.

Technology sometimes gets a bad rap — that artificial intelligence has spawned robots that will ruin the world. With Reflect AI, we're making the case that AI can make things better. That AI can make things more human.

Carolyne Zinko is the editorial director at Alphy.

Reflect AI by Alphy is a SaaS platform that flags harmful language, including topic, tone, “isms,” confidence, mindset and appropriateness. Our AI language classifier detects risks in emails prior to send, flags conversational missteps (and successes) in video meetings in real-time, and upskills individual communication with targeted and personalized microlearning.


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