The EEOC received a record 99,922 charges in the 2010 fiscal year—the most the agency has received in its 45-year history. The 2010 totals represent a 7% increase over the number of charges filed in 2009.
Given this sharp increase in charge activity, now is a good time to review your personnel policies and practices to make sure you’re taking appropriate steps to help prevent potential discrimination claims.
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In addition, in reviewing their policies and practices, employers may want to consider the following two EEOC enforcement trends: increased scrutiny of background checks and inflexible leave policies.
Background on background checks
The EEOC has long taken the position that policies and practices that exclude applicants on the basis of credit history or criminal background can have a disparate impact on minorities (thus violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) unless the policy or practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
The EEOC has recently increased its scrutiny of employers that use background checks as part of its Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment initiative.
Background-check best practices
In light of this increased EEOC scrutiny, you should carefully review your background-check policies and practices.
In particular, make sure that when an applicant is excluded from employment as a result of the background check, you can articulate why the exclusion is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
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Beware inflexible leave rules
Another focus of increased EEOC scrutiny is inflexible leave policies. The EEOC has recently brought several disability discrimination lawsuits against companies that have terminated employees who were unable to return to work at the end of a maximum leave period. That can be very expensive!
In 2009, the EEOC settled a case with Sears for $6.2 million. In that case, the EEOC claimed that Sears’ policy of terminating employees who were out on workers’ compensation leave for more than one year violated the ADA. That’s because Sears refused to consider accommodations that involved returning to work in a different capacity or offering brief extensions of leave.
The EEOC also settled a similar disability discrimination lawsuit against Supervalu Inc. in January 2011 for $3.2 million.
Those settlements are a stark reminder that an inflexible leave policy (even a generous policy that provides 12 months of leave) can lead to violations of the ADA if employers do not consider available reasonable accommodations that would allow employees to return to work.
The Book of Company Policies puts all this policy know-how together in one source. You’ll find model policies – carefully worded, legally sound and already tested in companies across the United States. Simply apply them to your own company’s needs – subject to legal review – to communicate your organization’s rules, standards and benefits.
Not sure all your policy concerns will be addressed? Scan The Book of Company Policies’ detailed table of contents below, and we guarantee you’ll see everything you need to build a rock-solid set of policies tailored to your organization.
Part I: Employee Manuals
Part II: Workday Rules and Procedures
Part III: Time-Off Policies
Part IV: Employment Policies
Part V: Employee Conduct
Part VI: Workplace Issues
Part VII: Work/Life Balance