Small to midsize business owners have enough on their plates without having to worry about the potential for an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) complaint. While the risk of having to face an EEOC complaint may be rare, even the best managers and business owners may encounter a less-than-ideal situation with an employee at some point.
When it comes to dealing with the EEOC, the best defense is a good offense. Here are the basics you need to know to protect your business against this dilemma.
An employee, who believes they have been harassed or treated unfairly based on a legally protected classification, can file a complaint with the EEOC to report their employer’s discrimination. Several traits are federally safeguarded from harassment and discrimination. These protected classifications include:
If an employee believes they have been harassed, discriminated against, or otherwise treated unfairly at work based on any of the above factors, he or she can file an EEOC complaint. Employees might, also, file an EEOC complaint if they believe they’ve been retaliated against for reporting discrimination that may have experienced or witnessed.
Preventing EEOC Complaints
With a good strategy, preventing EEOC complaints is entirely possible. A comprehensive plan for a small business might include a three-pronged approach, highlighting the following training for employees and managers, a zero-tolerance anti-discrimination and harassment policy, and adequate reporting channels for employees.
1. Implement Anti-Discrimination Training Programs
Even well-intentioned employees and managers may be liable to act inappropriately if they aren’t aware of the behavior that’s expected of them. Does your small business have an anti-discrimination training program in place? A comprehensive training program can help coach employees and managers on what is and is not permissible workplace behavior.
For managers, training programs should at a minimum cover what supervisors should (and shouldn’t) take into consideration when hiring and promoting in order to promote diversity and meritocracy. Training should focus on promoting sensitivity to legally protected traits and developing a culture of inclusivity. Training programs should also include specific situational examples of intolerable behavior. After the training is complete, employees and managers should be clear on what types of conduct are prohibited.
Many small businesses do not have a human resources manager, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t institute and measure diversity and inclusion initiatives within their workplace. Small businesses can consider hiring a PEO comprised of experts who are well-versed in what to look out for.
2. Enforce a Zero-Tolerance Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy
Does your business have an employee handbook? If so, does it have an anti-discrimination policy? Many small businesses let their handbook go un-updated for years. Many more still lack a complete handbook addressing common modern workplace issues, including discrimination and harassment. Your anti-discrimination and harassment policy should clearly set forth disciplinary actions that may be taken against employees who break the policy, up to and including termination from employment with the company.
Policies on discrimination and harassment should contain strict anti-retaliation provisions. Ensure that your policy makes it clear to employees and managers that reporting prohibited conduct is expected, encouraged, and protected.
Training, anti-discrimination, and harassment policies are a great start, but they will do little by way of avoiding an EEOC claim when employees are unable to report the problem within their own workplace. For this reason, employers should always establish clear and adequate internal reporting channels.
A single avenue for reporting discrimination and harassment internally may not be enough. If, for example, an employee is instructed to report prohibited conduct to their manager, they may be unable to report the conduct if the perpetrator is their manager. Multiple reporting channels may be a solution to address this dilemma. If your organization doesn’t have the infrastructure to support an HR department, partnering with a PEO can ensure that employees always have an uninvolved party to notify.
Meet Axcet HR Solutions: Your First Defense Against EEOC Complaints.
At Axcet, we have been working with Kansas City area businesses for more than 30 years, helping them manage their HR services, stay compliant with employment rules and regulations, and find the best rates available when it comes to benefits and insurance premiums. If you’d like to double down on your defense against EEOC complaints, revamp your workplace policies, or check your compliance with EEOC laws, we’re here to help. We would love to work with you; contact us today.