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Can your practices withstand EEOC scrutiny? Use its standards to check hiring bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Even one employee’s complaint to the EEOC can launch a massive investigation into your hiring practices. That’s true even if the initial complaint didn’t strictly concern hiring. Reason: The commission has an independent right to investigate discrimination claims and can expand investigations well beyond any initial complaint.

That’s why you must proactively look for inadvertent discrimination in all your hiring and employment practices. Don’t wait for the agency to come snooping.

Recent case: Elliot Thompson, who is black, worked for Konica Minolta Business Solutions for just eight months. He claimed he had been singled out for discipline because of his race after he failed to meet his sales quota. Plus, he said he suffered retaliation when he complained to HR.

Thompson filed a race discrimination complaint with the EEOC, and the commission began an investigation. At first, Konica cooperated.

But then the EEOC discovered Konica had only six black employees in its Chicago-area facilities, out of 120 employees. Five of the black employees worked in one location, with just one other out of 100 employees at the remaining Chicago locations.

When the EEOC crunched the data, it also concluded that the two sales teams working out of one location seemed to be segregated by race. For example, Thompson’s team was made up of five black and two white employees.

The agency then began to suspect that Konica might have engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. It thought perhaps the company steered black employees to one sales team, which coincidently happened to have a sales territory that was predominantly black.

It therefore issued expansive subpoenas seeking information on applicants and hiring.

Konica refused to comply, and the EEOC sued to enforce the subpoenas. The employer argued that the agency should be limited to investigating Thompson’s specific complaint—namely that he was disciplined differently on account of his race.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It said the agency had wide authority to expand investigations when it found suspicious data. (EEOC v. Konica Minolta Business Solutions, No. 10-1239, 7th Cir., 2011)

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