Have you been experiencing more EEOC claims from unhappy employees? If so, you’re not alone.
Even though some government reports are saying the recession is over, many employers are still steamlining their payrolls with fewer and smaller raises, and layoffs. The number of new unemployed workers may be slowing down, but it’s still spiralling downward. It’s resulted in a significant amount of employee dislocation and is causing more than a few people to be disgruntled and to take action.
The actions are increasingly manifesting themselves as EEOC claims. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunty Commision is seeing the number of claims go sky high. In 2008 alone, the agency experienced a 15% increase in claims, from 82,792 in 2007 to 95,402 in 2008. It was the biggest increase in claims in the agency’s 44-year history. 2009 will no doubt follow closely on its heels.
The biggest jump occurred in the area of age discrimination claims, increasing an impressive 29% from year to year. Retaliation claims were next, experiencing a 23% increase, and racial discrimination claims increasing 11%.
I appreciate that to suggest you’re in good company if your business has seen its own up tic in claims is small comfort. You still have to invest the time and money to defend against unmeritorious claims. It adds up and diverts attention and resources from other goals and initiatives.
One way to save money and protect your company from such claims is through sound employment policies and effective compliance training. Good policies lay the foundation for what is acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace. All too often, managers treat such policies as obstacles rather than tools.
I vividly remember during one of my MBA courses while we were discussing the topic of sexual harassment a young middle manager from GE suddenly blurted out in class, “now I know why we have those policies.” It was a serious ‘aha’ moment. Once that connection is made, supervisors will look to the policies for guidance and will be more able to avert unnecessary claims.
The management side, of course, is only part of the equation. What about the employees who actually file the claims? How do you make them see the light?
It’s all about effective communications. Here again, compliance training can go a long way toward explaining why certain actions, are or are not, within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. More importantly, on an individual level, recognizing when an employee is struggling with certain management decisions, for example a reassignment to a less high profile project or a disappointing performance review, can make or break a future claim. The seeds of discontent are often sown long before the tipping event that leads to an EEOC claim, or worse. Having the conversation up front helps air concerns and grievances instead of letting them fester and boil over. Don’t let that opportunity slip by because you’re uncomfortable with confrontation or what you might hear.
Preplanning in terms of appropriate policies and training, vigilance in terms recognizing warning signs, plus confidence and courage to confront potential problems before they escalate can go a long way toward not having your company turn into another EEOC statistic.