Back in May, we attended the Staffing Law Conference, and one of the most memorable sessions was “In the Crosshairs: Staffing Firms and the EEOC,” presented by Gerald L. Maatman Jr., Esq. Because of the unique nature of staffing firms, we’re especially vulnerable to EEOC rulings.
Every 4 years, the EEOC adopts a Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which is its blueprint of enforcement for the next several years. We’re currently almost halfway through the EEOC’s current SEP; it was approved in 2012, and will run through 2016. 2012 EEOC approve its SEP for 2013-2016.
One of the biggest focuses for the current SEP is eliminating barriers to hire. If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s because it was behind the whole change in guidance on background checks in the past couple of years.
The EEOC is also targeting staffing firms on their referral policies: last year, the agency launched litigation against 2 staffing firms regarding the candidates they recommended for certain jobs. In one example, the EEOC sued a firm for allegedly recommending only male candidates for warehouse positions, though some of those male candidates were less physically qualified than some female applicants.
The EEOC’s track record has been a bit spotty lately. Last year, the agency obtained the highest monetary recovery in its history. But it’s also received lots of fines and sanctions over the past couple of years. So it looks like the EEOC is choosing high-value targets and gambling with many of their cases, and they don’t always win.
Maatman’s advice? Be proactive. Review your policies and procedures to make sure they aren’t discriminatory or biased.
Also, this might sound counterintuitive, but encourage internal complaints. Why? Because an internal complaint is an opportunity to fix what’s wrong before it becomes an external complaint (and involves the EEOC).
And finally, whether you’re trying, negotiating or settling with the EEOC, it’s best to hire a consultant. This kind of thing involves a lot of highly specialized knowledge and insight, and a consultant can help you present your defense.