If discrimination has always been a head-in-the-sand issue for you and your organization, it’s time to get serious about your policies and practices.
Discrimination complaints of all types—race, sex, age, etc.—have climbed as steeply in the past year as the economy has fallen.
Employees filed 95,402 job discrimination claims in fiscal year 2008, up a whopping 26% in the past two years. It’s the most claims since the EEOC was established in 1965. Some types of bias—including retaliation and age claims—have jumped nearly 50% since 2006 (see chart below).
Considering that employers face new laws, changed regulations and a continuing economic downturn, it’s safe to say complaints will increase for the near future.
Advice: Don’t get caught flat-footed. Know exactly how to handle a discrimination claim before one arrives. (See our primer: “How to respond to an EEOC complaint.”)
Remember that your best approach is always to steer clear of the EEOC’s crosshairs in the first place by making sure your workplace is discrimination-free. Six tips:
1. Review your handbook to make sure it includes a firm policy that forbids discrimination or harassment. Explain the consequences, up to and including termination.
2. Back that policy with regular training for all employees and supervisors that hammers home your stance against discrimination.
3. Update your policies and procedures to comply with changes in the law. Just this year, the ADA and the received important revisions, and the Lilly Ledbetter Act erased the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims, making your organization far more vulnerable to pay-related bias suits.
4. Make sure your performance standards are objective and interpreted that way by managers. Verify that those standards are being applied evenhandedly so that minorities, women, older workers, the disabled and other protected classes aren’t singled out for punishment of infractions.
5. Document all disciplinary action to make sure it’s handed out evenly and fairly. Track and layoffs to ensure they don’t fall disproportionately on a protected class.
6. Examine your pre-employment tests, screening procedures and background checks for bias. It’s a new focus of the EEOC. Audit your tests with a new EEOC fact sheet at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/factemployment_procedures.html.
Job bias claims set record
Type in 2008 from 2006
Race 33,937 24%
Retaliation 32,690 45%
Sex 28,372 22%
Age 24,582 48%
Disability 19,453 25%
National origin 10,601 27%
Religion 3,273 29%
Equal Pay Act 954 11%
TOTAL 95,402 26%
Source: EEOC (total is less than sum because some people charge multiple types of discrimination with each claim).
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