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Jun 23, 2011

By Eric B. Meyer

Yesterday, the EEOC held a meeting to discuss what it deems a “major national problem”; namely, deliberate discrimination against job seekers based on their race, sex, age, national origin or other prohibited basis.

Here  is a summary of the testimony from yesterday’s meeting, pulled from this EEOC press release:

  • Bill Lann Lee, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, called on the EEOC to combat hiring discrimination as part of its systemic initiative. “Systemic discrimination in hiring today is particularly disheartening to communities where joblessness has put the American Dream on hold,” he said. “Hiring discrimination is a fundamental problem; it often denies more than one employment opportunity, cutting off future opportunities as well. It is impossible to climb the rungs of a ladder if an individual cannot get a foot on the first rung.”
  • Katherine Kores, the EEOC’s Memphis district director, told the Commission that “hiring cases can be extraordinarily difficult to identify and investigate.” Because applicants often have no information about who was hired, or the composition of the employer’s workforce, she said, they do not realize that they have been the victims of hiring discrimination.
  • Kate Boehringer, a supervisory trial attorney in the Baltimore Field Office, detailed the EEOC’s suit against Area Temps, a northeast Ohio temporary labor agency, which agreed to pay $650,000 in July 2010 for its systematic practice of considering and assigning (or rejecting) job applicants by race, sex, Hispanic national origin and age. The EEOC said that Area Temps used code words to describe its clients and applicants for discriminatory purposes, such as “chocolate cupcake” for young African American women, “hockey player” for young white males, “figure skater” for white females, “basketball player” for black males, and “small hands” for women in general.
  • Rae T. Vann, general counsel of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, an organization of major employers, stressed the need to train staff involved in the hiring process. She urged the EEOC to update a 1998 “Best Practices” manual for employers to give more real-life examples from private companies. But she also cautioned the EEOC to allow flexibility in requiring employer training, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach on a range of employers, to prevent hiring discrimination.

6 tips to avoid EEOC hiring issues

So how can your company keep its nose clean?

Here are six hiring tips, straight from the EEOC:

  1. Recruit, hire, and promote with EEO principles in mind, by implementing practices designed to widen and diversify the pool of candidates considered for employment openings, including openings in upper level management.
  2. Monitor for EEO compliance by conducting self-analyses to determine whether current employment practices disadvantage people of color, treat them differently, or leave uncorrected the effects of historical discrimination in the company.
  3. Analyze the duties, functions, and competencies relevant to jobs. Then create objective, job-related qualification standards related to those duties, functions, and competencies. Make sure they are consistently applied when choosing among candidates.
  4. Ensure selection criteria do not disproportionately exclude certain protected classes unless the criteria are valid predictors of successful job performance and meet the employer’s business needs. For example, if educational requirements disproportionately exclude certain minority or racial groups, they may be illegal if not important for job performance or business needs.
  5. Make sure promotion criteria are made known, and that job openings are communicated to all eligible employees.
  6. When using an outside agency for recruitment, make sure the agency does not search weed out candidates of a particular protected class. Both the employer that made the request and the employment agency that honored it would be liable.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.