On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being in full compliance – what’s your EEOC scorecard look like going into 2017 … 6 questions that deserve your attention on Tuesday, January 3rd?

55 to 60 – probably safe for 6 months – revisit every 6 months

48 to 54 – evaluate where you are most vulnerable and take action in Q1 2017

41 to 47 – getting less than 7 hours of sleep?

34 to 40 – you should be talking to a labor lawyer

1.Write a discrimination policy

The key to preventing EEOC lawsuits is to document everything, starting with your Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy. The policy holds employees legally accountable for upholding the laws and values enshrined in federal civil rights statutes. It also explains what managers and staff should do in cases of alleged discrimination.

A standard policy details how managers should record EEOC incidents, take corrective actions, and follow up. Every employee should sign the discrimination policy during onboarding.

2. Make your non-discrimination policy visible

Post your discrimination policies somewhere every employee must see it. Your logbook, employee handbook, learning management system, and breakroom are good locations. Remember, visitors, vendors, and guests could take away the wrong idea if they see a piece of paper titled “ANTI-DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT POLICY.” Keep it in the back of the house.

3. Mandatory training  

Training ensures that employees follow the protocols set forth in your discrimination policy. Courses should teach employees how to distinguish discrimination from typical office and work related shenanigans.  

At minimum, training should cover:

  • What employees should do if they experience or see discrimination in the workplace.
  • How to report incidents.
  • Step-by-step actions managers should take upon learning of an incident

Be ready to prove that employees have completed training. Whether you design your own courses or license them through an online learning management system, document completion.

4. Don’t ask illegal interview questions

If we sat down to a mock interview, would you be able to pick out which questions are illegal? Probably not without practice and training.

Many managers don’t realize that asking for the candidate’s age, number of children, and disabilities during the hiring process can be considered discrimination. However, you can obtain the same information by reframing discriminatory questions. For example:

  • Do you have any disabilities → Are you able to perform the following tasks…?
  • How old are you? → Are you between the ages of 18 and 65?
  • Do you have kids? →  Do you have responsibilities that may prevent you from committing to your assigned work schedule?

5. Find the line between fun and harassment

In most office and/or work related culture, jokes, pranks, and profanity are fun until they cross a line. Good managers know where that line is and guard it aggressively. Trust managers to confront employees who put the company at risk of an EEOC lawsuit. Shouting four-letter words is one thing, but jabs against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or disability can trigger lawsuits.

6. Document, document, document

From recruiting and hiring to benefits administration, reviews, and termination… document everything. Be ready to back up your actions with evidence. Maintain time-stamped records of personnel issues, corrective actions, and disciplinary activity in a digital or physical logbook. By assuming that you will have to justify your actions in court, you will reduce the chance that you ever have to.

Now, talk to your lawyers…

The internet is not the place to make your legal strategy. Use this article to understand the high-level issues, but please consult your legal counsel for further guidance. They know what documentation, policies, training, and systems you need to avoid an encounter with the EEOC. Just remember, you can’t “win” an EEOC lawsuit, but you can prevent one.

Sent from my iPhone

Ed Stillman

Austin Texas

Vistage Group Chair


512.422.6232 (mobile or text)

I help individuals become better business leaders – and business leaders become better people – who run better companies and make a more significant difference in the world.

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