Supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement: Update EEOC Policies (Part 2 of 12)
This is the second post in a 12-part series on how companies can show true support for the Black Lives Matter movement by changing company policies and practices. The focus of this post is to understand the role that a company’s EEOC policy plays in creating a safe work environment for black employees, employees of color, and other minority employees.
First, make sure that you have required state, local, and federal equal employment posters hung (or electronically available) in an easily accessible location. The EEOC Poster and supplements are available free of charge here. Remember, however, that this only covers EEOC federal posting requirements. Your organization likely has other federal and state mandated posting requirements that the Company’s HR team should be aware of.
Second, review the content and accessibility of your EEOC policy and statement. Is the policy easily accessible to your employees and applicants (both electronically and in any physical format)? Consider your employees’ access to computers and printers if the document is only available electronically. Consider posting the document or policy in a space that is easily accessed by employees. Next, review the content. Does the document appropriately lay out the protected classes in the jurisdictions you operate in? We suggest inclusion of general language that individuals will not “be discriminated against as a result of any classification protected by state, federal, or local law,” in case there is an update in the law but the company fails to simultaneously amend the policy.
Third, does the policy set forth what an employee can expect to occur if a complaint of discrimination or harassment is made? Consider the following:
- Identify who should receive the complaint.
- Consider listing multiple individuals of different sex, gender, race, and national origin so that employees feel comfortable depending on the context of the alleged incident.
- Consider investing in a hotline or email account designated for complaints.
- Provide information concerning the investigation process.
- Make clear that no retaliation will result from an individual making a good faith complaint or participation in the complaint’s investigation.
- Analyze the process requirements that the Company may be subject to under any Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- Discuss how the Company will follow-up with the complaining employee concerning the investigation findings.
- Consider a separate acknowledgement for this policy (outside of your general handbook acknowledgement).
Fourth, if you do not currently have an EEOC statement, consider language such as the following:
Company is an equal opportunity employer. Company is committed to providing a workplace that is free from unlawful discrimination including race, color, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability (physical and mental), medical conditions, genetic information, marital status, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding status, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth), gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, military status, and any other status protected by state, federal, or local law. The Company prohibits and does not tolerate unlawful discrimination against employees, applicants, and covered persons whose characteristics protect them from discrimination and harassment, who are perceived to have any of these characteristics, or who associate with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of these characteristics.
In addition to the above, other ways you can create policies that lead to actual change, which will be discussed in future posts, consider:
- Training employees on anti-discrimination laws, duties, and policies. If you already perform training, this is the first step, but consider ways you can make the training more impactful.
- Providing implicit bias training to employees. While in the past there has been concern that acknowledging implicit bias will be detrimental in any future discrimination lawsuit, this is not likely the case. Implicit bias is present in us all and we all need to be aware of the devastating impact it has on the choices we make on a daily basis.
- Providing third-party intervention training to employees and managers so that they have tools and resources to assist them should they witness racist behavior or microagressions in the workplace.
- Updating your grooming/personal appearance policy to include language that forbids discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.
- Considering the creation of affinity groups with the purpose of providing a platform/forum for employees to discuss ways in which the company can create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
- Educating your managers about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Reviewing past EEO-1 and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) information to identify places in which the company could be doing better (even if not required by law).
- Stopping referral-based hiring programs as these continue to perpetuate the hiring of non-diverse candidates.
- Listening to the experiences of black employees and employees of color.
- Educating your managers and decision-makers about the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices experienced by black employees and employees of color.