Submitted by: Leah Hollis, President, Patricia Berkley LLC

As the buds bloom and many of us conduct our spring cleaning, it’s a good time to review your organization’s workplace discrimination policies.  In the last few years, the EEOC has updated policies regarding retaliation, religious discrimination and disparate treatment.  Recruitment practices such as pervasive credit checks and eliminating applicants who are unemployed can adversely and disproportionally impact women and people of color.  

How can an organization withstand the wave of discrimination lawsuits?

  • Engage in ongoing diversity and policy training for your managers.  A consistent and interactive training for staff might seem like a waste of time.  However, hours of interactive training can eliminate the months or years an organization spends fighting a law suit.
  • Know your policies AND follow them.  Too often employers break their own polices in by-passing hiring procedures, playing favorites, or simply being lax with promotion decisions.  The favoritism shown to one employee is an opportunity denied to another.
  • DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT.  Employees and employers should keep documents of any and all actions regarding employment decisions.  For example, the hiring procedures should be documented to include who applied, who was interviewed, who was hired and at what salary. Remember, even notes from an interview are discoverable; be careful of what is doodled in the margins.  Employers should memorialize comments about performance in writing. Informal corrections to performance can politely go in email, while a standard performance appraisal process should be followed and documented.
  • Dust off the employee handbook.  The policies in the employee handbook should be formally reviewed and possibly revised every 2-3 years.  Standards in hiring practices are ever changing.  In addition, institutional memory changes when personnel turn over.  The handbook is more than a symbolic coffee table book.  Be sure to take care of it as your organization grows and legislation changes.

Remember an ounce of prevention is a good thing to include during your spring cleaning.