The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has given employers a heads-up about what its focus is going to be from 2013- 2016.
The agency’s Strategic Enforcement Plan focuses on six main initiatives:
- Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring
- Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers
- Addressing Emerging and Developing Issues
- Enforcing Equal Pay Laws
- Preserving Access to the Legal System
- Preventing Harassment Through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach
This is like those signs the highway patrol posts on holidays that they’ve erected sobriety checkpoints: This is what we’re looking for people, don’t be surprised.
The good news is, forewarned is forearmed. Now that you know exactly what the EEOC is drilling down on, you can put extra HR focus on those specific areas.
In recent years, the agency has worked to get much more focused and efficient about enforcement. Instead of responding to everything that comes in and filing hundreds of suits, the EEOC has turned a laser gaze on specific kinds of complaints. Consequently, it has shrunk the number of actual suits filed and raised the amount of monetary recovery to an unprecedented $365.4 million in 2012.
One of the main issues the EEOC has in its cross-hairs, represented by the top initiative on the list, is the issue of exclusionary policies. That means discriminating against people through restrictive applications processes and the use of screening tools like pre-employment tests, background checks, and date-of-birth inquiries. Since employers have more access to data, the agency is going to get tough on how they use it. So anywhere in the hiring process, when a company is trying to find the best candidate for the job, anything used to screen out the less desirable candidates had better be vetted for possible discrimination.
A few months ago, I blogged about the huge problem of mistaken identities—people rejected for jobs because a background check revealed information that didn’t actually belong to the candidate. That’s still a huge concern.
But what’s also a huge concern is whether anything in the screening process skews in favor of a particular group. Does a Scotch-Irish guy’s youthful conviction for marijuana possession harm his chances less that an African American’s?
Does a 40-year-old with a crummy credit rating earn a harsher judgment than a 23-year-old’s? It matters.
And does the previous record—for crime, credit issues or other problems—have anything to do with the candidate’s ability to perform this job?
In addition to combing through your tests, documents and hiring practices for evidence you’re about to run afoul of the EEOC, the best solution is to take the extra time and consider everything on a case-by-case basis. How long ago was the issue? Was it a pattern or a one-time incident? Was it murder or shoplifting? How closely related is it to the job? It’s time consuming and expensive but you just can’t adopt or maintain blanket policies about hiring people in certain classes or groups—like those with criminal convictions. We always recommend case-by-case hiring to clients because the cost of doing it is lower than the cost of making a mistake. Of course, that requires a judgment call based on knowledge of the law and the regulatory agencies, which is often where we come in.
Your policies should reflect this case-by-case system and your hiring manager needs to be well trained in how to scan applicant information for triggers that require extra attention. You need to train your employees in all departments about your new policies. It does no good to create a new policy unless everybody’s following it.
Got questions about the new policy and what you need to do to make sure your company’s compliant? Valentine HR can evaluate your hiring processes and documents to ensure they meet the EEOC’s standards.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.