by Jayna Genti
As part of its multiyear Strategic Enforcement Plan, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made protecting immigrant, migrant, and other vulnerable workers a national priority. Because it has found that “many of these workers are unable or afraid to assert their rights under federal law,” the EEOC has instituted outreach and education, particularly among Hispanic workers, with the goal of making them aware of their rights in the U.S. workforce, regardless of their work authorization status.
The most recent outreach efforts of the EEOC occurred last month when the EEOC’s Richmond Local Office and the Consulate of Mexico in Washington, D.C., pledged to work together to tackle discrimination in the workplace and its unique impact on Mexican nationals. Mexican Consul General Juan Carlos Mendoza Sánchez and Reuben Daniels, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish an ongoing collaborative relationship between the EEOC and the Mexican Consulate.
No employer trying to build diversity in its workforce is likely to get very far if its culture tolerates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against employees based on race, gender, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law. Not only does such a culture work against recruitment and retention of diverse talent, it also invites legal trouble. That’s why employers are taking a close look at new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressing retaliation claims.
The EEOC issued its new guidance on August 29, replacing previous guidance released in 1998. In addition to the guidance document, the EEOC also released a question-and-answer document and a fact sheet for small business. The material from the EEOC follows a surge of retaliation claims in recent years.
Dallas has been my home for 32 years. Currently, I live and work downtown. The murders of the five Dallas police officers took place just a few blocks from my home. Neighbors in my building heard the firefight as it unfolded. I am a law professor, and three of my students are police officers. I have thought of them a lot lately.
The public-policy issues on race, guns, and violence are being debated and discussed everywhere from the dinner table to the classroom to legislative arenas. Those issues permeate our workplaces as well. Like the Venn diagrams we learned in high school, which use overlapping circles to show relations between different items, the issues overlap—not by a little, but by a lot. Here are some questions HR, company leaders, and anyone else who is grappling with these issues should ask.
Asking illegal or inappropriate interview questions is one of the easiest ways for an employer to create a risk for discrimination claims. It isn’t unusual for polite, friendly, personal, non-job-specific conversation to be part of the interview process. However, when conducting an interview, you must always be aware that even indirect or inadvertent questions about a protected characteristic can give rise to a discrimination claim.
Friendly may mean illegal
by Dr. Jamison Green
Corporate leaders agree that diverse and inclusive workplaces are more productive, versatile, and adaptive in a changing marketplace. But often, when managers think of gender diversity, they think only about gender parity between men and women, or about opening traditionally male occupations to women, or vice versa. Creating a transgender-inclusive workplace is an opportunity to create even more awareness about gender, and to eliminate the prejudices and limitations we impose on people because of our assumptions about gender and sex stereotypes.
Employers may not even be aware that they may already have transgender people in their workforce. Not all transgender people will go through an “on-the-job” transition, nor will they be “obvious” in their appearance. Some employees may have transgender family members or friends, and knowing that there are employers who actively do not discriminate against this segment of the population can be a source of relief and even pride.
I keep waiting for the day that employment discrimination claims disappear. We spend a ton of time training employees to prevent and avoid discriminatory conduct, and the proper behavior is pretty intuitive. So, logically, employment discrimination should have been eradicated, like polio and smallpox.
It would be terrible for my business if discrimination cases went away because defending them is much of what I do. But no worries―there isn’t much chance of employment discrimination disappearing. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received about 100,000 charges in 2012, up from 75,000 in 2005. Religious discrimination is the fastest- growing category of charges, fed by a rising fear of those who practice Islam and the misplaced view that, unlike race or sex, a person can just change religion. The EEOC is putting extra enforcement effort into that area. read more…
The vast majority of all equal employment opportunity lawsuits are filed by individual employees or job applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may file cases on behalf of individuals, but it rarely does so because of limited resources. To get more “bang” for its litigation bucks, the EEOC is increasingly turning to “pattern-or-practice” cases. You should respond to any EEOC charges against your company with that in mind, crafting your responses to avoid creating issues that trigger federal court litigation funded by the agency.
EEOC Focus: Systemic Claims
In recent years, the EEOC has shifted much of its focus to systemic claims, otherwise known as pattern-or-practice claims, which target discriminatory patterns, practices, or policies that have a broad impact on certain groups of individuals. In 2005, for example, the EEOC created the Systemic Task Force for the primary purpose of improving its methods and strategies for targeting systemic discrimination. In fact, although the EEOC has recently filed fewer lawsuits on behalf of individual employees, the number of systemic discrimination lawsuits it has initiated has approximately doubled in the past 10 years. In 2010 alone, out of 165 systemic investigations, the agency obtained 29 settlements or conciliation agreements, bringing in approximately $6.7 million. read more…
According to the annual Performance and Accountability Report released in November, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finished fiscal year 2011 with a 10 percent decrease in its pending-charge inventory, the first such reduction since 2002. At the same time, the agency achieved the highest-ever monetary amounts through administrative enforcement, and it received a record number of discrimination charges.
The fiscal year ended on September 30, 2011, with 78,136 pending charges, a decrease of 8,202 charges. The agency received 99,947 discrimination charges during the fiscal year — the most in the agency’s 46-year history. More than $364.6 million in monetary benefits was recovered in workplace discrimination cases — another highest-ever-in-agency-history figure. The report also estimates that the EEOC’s public outreach and education programs reached approximately 540,000 persons directly. read more…