I came across this article by Allen Smith, J.D., for the Society of Human Resource Management (or SHRM, for short). The article goes into some depth regarding how a company ought to prepare for the impending arrival of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It raised a few good points and it got me thinking… with almost 85 thousand cases of discrimination in the workplace in the USA alone last year – are employers doing enough to ensure equality in the workplace?
Do you know what to do if you need to report discrimination? Do you have a policy in place to protect yourself from it? If not then this article is aimed at you and/or your firm. With the EEOC in full swing we need to start implementing changes that stop these incidents occurring before they begin.
Why you need to be prepared
The EEOC are the authority on discrimination in the workplace and, should they be coming to visit you, it means that they are already investigating an allegation against you. They only visit to determine whether or not there is ‘probable cause’ for the discrimination claim – but if you cannot prove you take measures against it, or that the accuser has unfairly accused you, then you are at risk of being sued for damages.
Ultimately, you want to use the onsite interview to prove to them that you have not only taken preventative measures against discrimination occurring in your facility; but also that, if it did, it happened without your knowledge or consent.
If you fail to do so a case will most likely be brought against you.
What you can do about it
Preventative measures are better than a cure in this case. You need to have an established anti-discrimination policy in place right from the application process throughout employment – and you need to enforce it. If you witness or suspect any discrimination or bullying of any employees you must terminate the behavior immediately. You must make the consequences severe enough that, should the EEOC come calling, they are at least a little satisfied that you took responsibility and dealt with the problem accordingly. You should also have a compliance hotline, employee hotline or some other kind of anonymous hotline in place so that employees can report these things internally and bring them to your attention.
Should you find yourself under investigation you will need to gather all of the evidence that you possibly can on the matter. Any internal emails exchanged, any memo’s, any witness statements and managerial statements. The better prepared you are the less likely the EEOC is to take it further. In fact; if you send all this information when they make initial inquiries you might be able to avoid the visit altogether.
Ultimately it all comes down to management. If you can recognize problems as they occur you can avoid all of this unnecessary stress altogether. Set up a rigid policy and allow your employees access to a compliance hotline to minimize your risk of being caught out.