Here’s a scary little tidbit for employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which assists employees in bringing claims for discrimination against their employers, have announced that filings with the EEOC for discrimination jumped 9% in fiscal year 2007. In the first quarter of fiscal year 2008, they jumped another 21% from the previous year’s numbers for the same quarter.
Are employers suddenly discriminating that much more? Are employees more aware of their rights? Is the terrible economy driving more unemployed workers to sue their former companies? While these all could be contributing factors, the most likely cause is the fact that the EEOC last year opened an in-house call center and placed a questionnaire online to assist employees with filing a discrimination complaint. The purpose of the call center and the online assessment is to make it easier for complainants to make initial contact with the EEOC and to begin the process of claiming employment discrimination.
Of course, every employer is justifiably scared of facing a discrimination claim. The legal defense costs alone can severely challenge the budgets of businesses already facing tight times. But remember: just because an employee makes initial contact with the EEOC doesn’t necessarily mean that a charge of discrimination will be brought. In 2007, 55% of the inquiries made of the EEOC led to a charge.
And just because a charge is brought doesn’t mean that the employer did anything wrong. The EEOC finds no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation in almost 60% of their investigations.
But any employer has to be worried when we see that the EEOC is receiving so many more inquiries and complaints of discrimination. What can you as an employer do besides worry? Learn everything you can about protecting your business from discrimination claims right now.
For example, even in an “at will” employment state like Texas, why would you ever fire someone without a easily supported, well-documented reason that would pass a jury’s smell test? You can’t afford just to get upset and fire someone on a whim. For moral and legal reasons, terminating a person’s employment ought to be the result of a thoughtful, careful process in which the employee has been notified of the problems and given a chance to fix them.
Want more suggestions for preventing discrimination claims in your business? Just click on the category of “discrimination” in the right sidebar of this blog and you will find several more articles that could help you avoid facing an EEOC discrimination investigation or a lawsuit.