We have always preached preventive law, that is, using our knowledge of employment law and HR practices to counsel employers how to prevent claims, charges or lawsuits from ever happening.  It’s far less expensive, time consuming and distracting to spend a little time and money now to comply with the law, than not to do so and gamble that you won’t get sued or be pursued by the EEOC.

It’s a bad bet — ask anyone who has been there.

What Is Preventive HR?

And we urge employers to practice preventive HR – that is, to be one step ahead of the lawyers – and therefore a few steps ahead of the EEOC, or any number of government regulatory and compliance agencies eager to pounce on any employer who does not know the many intricate laws and regulations and allows violations to happen.

You are not the only one seeking to prevent workplace discrimination before it happens — the EEOC is also interested, and makes no bones about it.   In our blog of December 17, 2013 we said that the EEOC reported that it “continued to implement its Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016 and began implementing its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”), prioritizing systemic enforcement, expanding education and outreach, and improving customer service.”

Read the full EEOC report at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/index.cfm.

What Can You Do?

You can stay ahead of the EEOC only if you know the basics of the many anti-discrimination laws, maintain zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment, are ready and willing to create/update written employment practices and policies, conduct periodic training of your entire workforce — and, from the top down, communicate effectively that everyone will be treated fairly and without regard to race, religion, gender, disability, age, etc.

See if you can answer in the affirmative the following questions to determine your ability to avoid the hot breath of the EEOC.  14490951_s

1. Do you have at least a basic understanding as to what the anti-discrimination employment laws are, what they are designed to do, who they are designed to protect, and what the results are if you are in violation of such laws?

2. Do you know how to hire employees, how to conduct interviews, what questions can and cannot be asked, and what can and cannot be done to check up on applicants’ backgrounds?

3. Do you have a handbook, kept up-to-date, reflective of your well thought out employment policies and procedures? And one for each jurisdiction in which you have employees working? Do you, in fact, have such procedures?

4. Do you keep careful records documenting the performance of employees, so that in the event you have to discipline/terminate an employee you have a file which supports and substantiates the reason for your determination?

5. Do you have a clearly defined and well distributed anti-discrimination policy, and a “zero tolerance” policy relating to sexual harassment?

6. Do your employees know where to go and what to do if they have a complaint of discrimination?  Do you have someone designated an EEO officer to handle any complaints of discrimination made by employees?  And do the employees know who this person is?  And is there someone else to turn to if the employee for one reason or another cannot speak to the EEO officer?

7.  If you are a federal contractor are you aware of your special duties and recordkeeping requirements?

8. Do you have a policy for investigating and remediating — at the earliest possible time — any complaints of discrimination made by employees?

9. Do you conduct anti-harassment and/or anti-discrimination training seminars on a yearly (or more frequent) basis for both managers and employees?

10. Do you communicate to your employees, both in words and deeds, that you are truly an equal opportunity employer?

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of pertinent self-evaluation questions, nor is this small post any substitute for obtaining the best advice and counsel from HR professionals or employment lawyers.

But its a start – or a wake up call.