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.
Imagine you employ Rajesh Tank, an employee of Indian descent, as a regional VP. Other employees report that Tank engaged in unprofessional conduct that hurt team morale, showed favoritism toward certain employees, and pressured employees to hire a particular contractor. You investigate the allegations, find some truth to them, order Tank to terminate the contractor, and place him on a corrective action coaching plan.
Tank then reports inappropriate racial workplace comments and objects to the level of discipline meted out to the employee who made the comments. He engages in unprofessional conduct after being placed on the corrective plan, and despite your request that he terminate the contractor, he doesn’t. He also raises concerns that he is being discriminated against in the workplace. As a result of coworkers’ complaints about him, you conduct a second investigation and conclude that discharge is the appropriate course of action.
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…