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Future threat: 3rd-party pressure to curb bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked federal and California state regulators to investigate Hollywood’s hiring practices with an eye toward addressing discrimination against women.

Could pressure from politically active groups be employment law’s wave of the future?

The ACLU sent letters to the EEOC, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA) citing systemic “overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias” in the way the movie producers hire directors and writers. Systemic discrimination investigations are typically triggered when a pattern of complaints point to a sweeping problem affecting whole industries.

In Hollywood’s case, directors and writers are usually independent contractors and therefore lack the civil rights protections that employees enjoy. The ACLU is attempting to gain through litigation what it likely cannot through backroom pressure.

Hollywood may be especially suited to such a tactic because the entertainment industry considers itself progressive. Critics say its hiring practices tell a very different story.

Women directed just 1.9% of the top grossing films in 2013 and only 14% of all the television shows produced in 2014, according to the ACLU. Its complaint also provided some anecdotal evidence of women being told some shows were not “woman friendly,” and producers telling agents not to send women for certain positions.

For employers in less glamorous businesses, the ACLU’s move amplifies the “systemic discrimination” threat.

Regardless of industry, you should audit your hiring and promotion patterns to see if certain protected groups are consistently slighted. Prevent discrimination by training managers to recognize unconscious hiring biases. Employers that address disparities internally can reduce exposure to both litigation and bad publicity.

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