by Mindy Chapman, Esq.
In the good ol’ days, employers used to control all hiring decisions. Not anymore. Today, the EEOC has the power to decide whom you will have to roll out the red carpet for.
Case in point: Supervisors at Chino Latino, a Minneapolis restaurant, dished out big helpings of harassment to their Hispanic employees. If that wasn’t enough, for dessert the restaurant served up a double order of retaliation after it organized an employee meeting to try to stifle the harassment complaints. After that, the EEOC stepped in and informed the employer, “I’ll be your server today.”
Selecting from its buffet of remedies, the EEOC ordered the employer to pay $325,000, provide annual anti-harassment training and create a complaint hotline in both English and Spanish. But the biggest surprise came when the EEOC ordered the restaurant to hire a Spanish-speaking Hispanic ombudsman, who will be responsible “for monitoring, soliciting and resolving complaints of Latino and Hispanic employees.” (EEOC v. Rainbow Rest. Prop., Inc., D. MN)
What does this new ruling mean to you?
The EEOC is adding more consequences to its menu of mandates. It already can make you swallow your pride and create new policies, conduct complex training initiatives and file reports. Now, it can also add to your payroll.
Some lessons learned from this case:
• Proactively train managers. Don’t let them make a single comment about an employee’s protected characteristics, which include national origin, race, color, religion, sex and age.
• Monitor for retaliation. It’s subtle, and often hard to catch. So, stay on the lookout for ways that managers and supervisors are retaliating after employees file claims. Examples of retaliation include: giving the silent treatment, making demotions and cutting hours. Make sure managers know retaliation is illegal.
• Know the power of the EEOC. The agency exists to monitor for harassment, discrimination and retaliation. If the commission doesn’t think you understand the laws, it could—as in this case—force you to hire someone to become its eyes, ears and mouth to report on you.
Mindy Chapman is an attorney and president of Mindy Chapman & Associates LLC. She is a master trainer, keynote speaker and co-author of the ABA book, Case Dismissed! Taking Your Harassment Prevention Training to Trial.