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Curing the Lawsuit Epidemic: Check your glass ceilings for $19 million cracks

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Take a (mental) picture of your workforce. What do you see? How many women hold management jobs? Are females prevented by some invisible force from entering executive ranks? The EEOC is extremely aggressive these days and a new $19 million settlement last month shows how the agency is targeting gender bias. As EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru warned employers, “There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America.”

Take Mindy's advice — Curing the Lawsuit Epidemic with Mindy Chapman's HR 'Booster Shot' — one of the top sessions at last year's Society for Human Resource Management conference. Learn more

Case in Point: The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain, saying the company discriminated against thousands of female employees by denying them equal opportunities for advancement at hundreds of its restaurants.

The suit claimed that female staffers hit a “glass ceiling” and couldn’t earn promotions to the higher-level profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants. The EEOC also alleged that women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly kitchen management experience, which was required for employees to be considered for top management jobs.

Last month, Outback settled the class action suit for $19 million and entered into a four-year consent decree with the EEOC. The consent decree requires the company to:

  • Implement an online application system for employees interested in managerial and supervisory positions;
  • Employ an HR executive in the newly created post of vice president of people;
  • Employ an outside consultant who will determine compliance with the decree;
  • Analyze data from the online application system to ensure women are being equally considered for promotions; and
  • Submit semiannual written reports to EEOC on compliance.

The EEOC’s Ishimaru took the opportunity to fire a warning shot across corporate America’s bow, saying, “The EEOC will continue to bring class lawsuits like this one against employers who engage in gender discrimination on a systemic scale. Hopefully this major settlement will remind employers about the perils of perpetuating promotion practices that keep women from advancing at work.”

This isn’t just talk. The EEOC announced  that American workers filed 93,277 workplace discrimination charges in fiscal year 2009. That’s the second highest level ever, following more than 95,000 claims filed in 2008. The number of sex discrimination charges filed annually has increased more than 20% in the past three years. (EEOC v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida Inc., D. Colo., No. 06-CV-01935, consent decree entered, 12/29/09).

Mindy explains—in her trademark entertaining style—what the EEOC is targeting and how your organization can fly under the Commission’s radar, in the audio recording Curing the Lawsuit Epidemic with Mindy Chapman's HR 'Booster Shot'

3 Lessons Learned … Without Going to Court

The EEOC is looking at these cases as revenue-generating opportunities for the agency. So you should be looking at compliance opportunities, specifically:

1. Photo opportunities. Walk around your organization and take a mental snapshot of who is and isn’t represented at the various levels of your organization chart. If you don’t, the EEOC will.

2. Mentoring opportunities. Look for ways to mentor the under-represented through on-the-job training.

3. Advancement opportunities. Then take action. Promote them!

In Curing the Lawsuit Epidemic Mindy shares lessons about:
  • Where employers are most vulnerable to employee lawsuits in today's economy—and how you should build your defenses immediately.
  • The essential changes to policies and procedures needed to avoid employment liability in 2010.
  • The latest legal developments that every HR professional should be aware of
  • Practical lessons you can apply today from 10 recent lawsuit rulings.
  • The meaning of “DITO DITA” and why you should post this motto on your wall.

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