Simple solutions to potentially big problems

Recently, three articles in the HR press have shown that the consequences of bypassing commonly accepted HR best practices can have significant impact on employers.

The first article is about the increased, record number of charges filed with the EEOC: almost 100,000 new charges in 2011 and more than $364 million in back pay and penalties due to discrimination on the workplace. That combined with the $170 million in monetary benefits that the EEOC private-sector national mediation program collected for plaintiffs, puts the total penalties above one half billion dollars.

The second article is about the new legislation on age discrimination. On November 16th, a final regulation was approved which establishes that “an employment practice that adversely impacts older workers is discriminatory unless the practice is justified by a “reasonable factor other than age” (RFOA). This rule compliments the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act from 1967 and gives more precise interpretation on RFOA, as well as emphasizes a list of factors that can determine if a case will be viewed as an age discrimination matter. (See full text of the rule)

The third article explains that gender related compensation disparities still exist in the workplace: The U.S. Office of Accountability states: “Women in general have surpassed men in obtaining education over the last three decades, but on average, women with a high school degree or less earned lower hourly wages than men with the same level of education…Even when less-educated women and men were in the same broad industry or occupation category, these women’s average hourly wage was lower than men’s. GAO estimated that in 2010, less-educated women earned 86 cents–compared with 81 cents in 2000–for every dollar men earned, after adjusting for available factors that may affect pay.” (Read more here)

Age discrimination cases, resolved by the EEOC in 2010 were 63% greater than 10 years ago (24,800 vs. 15,155 respectively), representing almost 25% of all claims filed and resulting in $93 million of monetary benefits paid (see stats here). Gender discrimination was slightly more expensive – $129.3 million, and 30,914 resolutions in 2010. (See full statistics here).

Simple tools can dramatically reduce your risk of problems such as those outlined in the above articles. When was the last time you conducted a HR practice assessment? Updated your employer handbook? Reviewed your protocols for handling allegations of employment related discrimination?
If you would like to discuss any of these issues in more detail, please contact our compliance expert, Katie Birthler.