Time for Spring Cleaning: Review Your Workplace Policies and Procedures

Spring is a great time to conduct an internal review to ensure that your workplace policies and procedures are being properly followed.

Periodic reviews of employment policies have two primary functions:

  • To serve as a mini-refresher course to remind management and staff of the company’s expectations, and
  • To provide employers with current personnel information to highlight potential areas of concern to minimize or eliminate possible unlawful employment charges.

Why is Spring Cleaning Important?

The EEOC has launched a new initiative and has released its Fiscal Year 2006 data, reporting that for the first time since 2002 the number of discrimination charges against private-sector employers increased in 2006. The charges ranked as follows (individuals may allege multiple types of discrimination in a single filing):

  • Race (36%)
  • Sex (31%)
  • Retaliation (30%)
  • Disability (21%)
  • Age (18%)
  • National Origin (11%)
  • Religion (3%)

Federal and state agencies also received a record number of pregnancy discrimination charges in 2006, and of the over 12,000 sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC in 2006, the number of charges being filed by men set a new record of 15 percent.

The EEOC’s New Initiative Deserves Attention

In an effort to implement new strategies that will strengthen its enforcement of Title VII, specifically race and color discrimination, the EEOC launched the E-RACE Initiative on February 28, 2007. Race discrimination is the most frequent type of charge filed with the EEOC, a historical trend dating back to the EEOC’s establishment in 1965.

The E-RACE Initiative is designed to improve the EEOC’s efforts to ensure workplaces are free of race and color discrimination. The EEOC will combat the resurfacing of overt race and color discrimination and take a closer look at facially neutral employment criteria that significantly disadvantage applicants and employees on the basis of race and color. For example, employers making selection decisions based on names, arrest and conviction records, employment and personality traits, and/or credit scores may be identified and investigated as a result of this new initiative.

The EEOC also stated that it will investigate how employer reliance on new technology in job searches may lead to race and color discrimination. It cited as an example the use of video résumés, which can lead to intentional race or color discrimination based on appearance or a disproportionate exclusion of applicants of color who may not have access to broadband equipped computers or video cameras. In furtherance of its new initiative, the EEOC recently filed a class action lawsuit against a national employer alleging widespread racial bias. The EEOC alleged that the employer assigned African American managers, management trainees and pharmacists to low-performing stores and to stores in African American communities because of their race. This lawsuit illustrates that the E-RACE initiative targets both selection and employment issues.

Getting Your Workplace In Order

Spring cleaning and review of employment practices will not completely eliminate allegations of unlawful treatment by employees, but employers who consistently monitor and communicate their workplace policies and expectations are better equipped to negate perceptions of racial bias and/or defend against potential claims by disgruntled employees.

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