As spring is now upon us, it's time for General Counsels to make some moves for 2012.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission kicked it up a notch in the fourth quarter and there are no signs of a slowdown. Complaints are up and regulators have responded with aggression.
You should respond with equal vigor -- take the following employment actions before the EEOC comes down on you.
Conduct a labor audit. If you do one thing in the New Year, this should be it, R. Anthony Prather explains in Inside Counsel. Pick at least one human resource practice and ensure that there are no gender or race-based discrepancies.
If you find that compensation differences cannot be explained by education, performance, or other factors, address it immediately. Be on the lookout for any systemic discrimination.
Review your complaint process. Reevaluate how human resources and your office handle discrimination and harassment complaints. Are there multiple ways for employees to instigate an investigation? Are complaints dealt with promptly?
Be sure you have hired a properly trained investigator who can ensure confidentiality and thoroughness. Judges and juries don't look favorably on lax practices.
Retrain. Retrain. Retrain. Employment law experts can't harp on this enough. If supervisors and employees are not aware of federal and state laws, they won't know when to avoid illegal conduct. Keep your policies posted and updated.
And don't stick people in a room with a video -- no one pays attention.
Carrying out the above actions might take a little time and money, but if you manage to avoid the EEOC, it'll be time and money well-spent.
- Handling EEOC Discrimination Charges (FindLaw)
- NLRB Requires Employers to Post Union Rights (FindLaw's In House)
- How to Get Whistleblowers to Come to You Instead of the SEC (FindLaw's In House)