EEOC Releases Proposed National Origin Enforcement Guidelines

EEOC Releases Proposed National Origin Enforcement Guidelines

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) just released a 57-page document providing guidance to its enforcement officials and the general public on developments in the area of National Origin discrimination. The EEOC is the federal agency charged with investigating, conciliating, and prosecuting cases of employment discrimination against members of protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The August 2016 update (the first since 2002) provides enforcement officials and investigators guidance on how to seek out and apply principles of national origin discrimination in the field.  

The EEOC released this document because national origin discrimination claims are not only on the rise, but are predicted to continue to increase in the intermediate to long-term future based on the instability of society in the United States today and going forward. With several high-profile incidents of domestic terrorism and illegal immigration issues reaching a boiling point in the media; not to mention an increasingly diverse workforce in this country (generally seen as a positive), the EEOC feels that national origin as a protected class is something that bears careful watch due to the propensity for xenophobia and discrimination against people from other countries (or perceived as such) in the workplace.

Intersectional Discrimination Highlights EEOC’s Proposed Guidance

Highlighting the guidance provided in the EEOC’s proposed guidelines is a discussion on intersectional discrimination, with examples where individuals of a specific national origin are targeted for employment segregation or non-promotion based on the likelihood that they may be of a specific religion or other protected class (particularly Muslim). The EEOC comments that members of particular national origins (or individuals perceived as such) may be more likely to be targets of discrimination based on a business perception of customer preference, or unnecessary discipline, demotion and discharge. The document reminds us that any discrimination based on one or more protected classes, regardless of the motive, is always illegal.

National Origin Harassment and Spoken Language Issues also Key

Two other key issues discussed in the proposed enforcement guidelines are Title VII’s prohibition against unlawful harassment based on national origin and language issues. These issues frequently cross over, as individuals not only are often denied promotion and other job benefits based on their inability to speak the English language (or a discriminatory policy is put in place), but they are also subjected to derogatory or demeaning comments about their language fluency (or lack thereof) that can lead to a finding of hostile work environment harassment. This guidance reminds us that English-only rules and other policies must be carefully crafted and directly related to the employee’s job duties or are likely to be found discriminatory.

EEOC Suggests “Promising Practices” for Inclusion With Training Critical

Of particular importance to Syntrio’s clients and prospective clients, the EEOC outlines a list of “promising practices,” defined by the agency as proactive measures that can help reduce the risk of violations and “foster more diverse and inclusive work environments.”  Implementing some or all of these promising practices will be key to avoiding issues with the EEOC should a complaint of discrimination occur.  

The EEOC’s first suggestion is that employers recruit employees in widely circulated newspapers, as well as at job fairs and online postings that will reach underrepresented segments of the workforce. To that end, the EEOC’s proposed guidelines stress that relying on word of mouth recruitment results in homogeneity in a workforce and may have a disparate impact on members of some national origins.

The EEOC also encourages employers to be inclusive in their policies regarding hiring and promotion, as well as discipline, demotion and discharge. Indeed, the guidelines encourage employers to implement training programs to educate managers to take proactive managers to ensure that policies are effectively communicated to employees in all languages spoken in the workplace.

Finally, the EEOC encourages training all employees on the dangers of harassment, and educating them on the law and employer policies regarding harassment, and particularly national origin harassment. This is of particular importance to those employers who currently conduct sexual harassment training but perhaps not training on prevention of unlawful workplace harassment against members of other protected classes, like national origin.

Syntrio is a leader in both the employment law and ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact for more information about our employment discrimination prevention online courses for and remember to follow us on Facebook,  TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

What Poker Tell[s] You About Compliance

The game of poker is a relentless struggle to gather and evaluate information from the rest of the group. As the master of their own destiny, when seated at a table with 7-9 other individuals, some of whom known very well, others not at all, minimizing risk and the impact that luck has on the game is crucial to long-term success. When faced with a critical decision of whether to risk some, all, or none of his or her chips, a poker player must evaluate what has happened, so that he or she can apply what they have learned.

A compliance professional, managerial employee or corporate executive’s role in the compliance lifecycle is very similar to that of a poker player trying to navigate a high stakes cash game or tournament. Information is critical to decision-making, and things that have happened in the past give a clear eye toward the future. Take for example a situation where a new employee is accused of harassing a long-term employee who is a member of a protected class. As stated above, it is a supervisor’s (or compliance professional) job to investigate the allegations and evaluate the situation so he or she can apply what he has learned. This is very similar to a poker player who is faced with a difficult decision at the table following a betting action that deviates from the norm.

When a poker player raises early in the betting round, the player making the bet is representing to others that he or she has a very strong hand. This type of bet may be indicative of the truth, or could be a “bluff” attempting to extract chips from other players at the table later on in the hand. Managers, compliance professionals, and executives face “bluffs” from their workforce on a near-daily basis. While they may not be overt lies or attempts to mislead, we all know there are always two sides to every story. Just as the poker player uses the information from the past to evaluate how to act, the corporate employee must use his or her training, knowledge of ethics and the law, and the history of the employees at the center of the controversy to make a quick decision on how to act.

An incorrect decision at the poker table can cost a player all of his or her chips. However, a misstep in the corporate world can lead to a triumvirate of evil: A substantial lawsuit, an allegation of white-collar crime, and/or a public relations disaster. By learning to treat compliance like a poker game, and always using available information to evaluate each situation in conjunction with those that have happened in the past (with the caveat that two situations will not always relate to one another, therefore each situation must be evaluated independently), compliance risks can be minimized.

Unfortunately, just as luck plays a role in the game of poker, random variances in behavior an employee actions can influence the outcome of a compliance dilemma. Nevertheless, using all available information and educating your workforce on the issues is the best way to minimize risk and position your company for long-term compliance success. The key takeaway: the only “all in” bets you should be making are on formulating and implementing the best possible compliance plan for your company!

Syntrio is a leader in the ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought provoking content. Contact for more information about our ethics and compliance online courses for and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!

Employers Beware: New EEOC Flyer Targets Younger Employees

On July 22, 2016, the EEOC released a one-page information sheet that explains how religious discrimination impacts employee job rights. The flyer explains that it is illegal for employers to treat their employees differently or harass them based on religious practices or beliefs. Sounds informative, until you dig a bit deeper into the sheet and learn a bit about the historical context at work here.

In the past 20 years the number of religious discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has more than doubled, from 1,709 in 1997 to 3,502 in 2015, but those numbers do not tell the whole story, as there are a number of factors at work leading to that increase. When we examine the picture within the picture, the number of charges spiked dramatically in fiscal 2008-2013, going from 2,880 charges in 2007 to 3,273 in 2008 all the way to 4,151 in 2011 before gradually declining from 2012-2015. Not surprisingly, the spike in charges in the years following the Great Recession coincides with an extreme risk of layoff for EEOC investigatory agents. 

While the EEOC is charged with investigating and conciliating charges of discrimination in the United States, they are anything but a friend of employers, and have long been known to seek “target rich” sectors within the workforce. With 2016 being an election year, the new flier unabashedly seeks younger employees as Plaintiffs to keep the agents employed in a new administration. The flier is not ironic in its attempt to target younger workers, as shown in the paragraphs below.

First, the flyer itself is entitled “Youthwork,” and the title is spelled out in a kitschy “Comic Sans” font. Next, the three examples of employees subject to alleged discrimination are a) a barista on summer break; b) an “after school” grocery store cashier; and c) a student working in a clothing store. The examples themselves involve situations that are likely to come up among younger employees, and further channel activism and millennial angst and hostility towards authority. In any event, the flier unfairly singles out millennials as somehow more likely to be victims of religious discrimination when they are, if anything, more likely to be the targets of a form of [legal] age discrimination

Employers need to be aware of the EEOC’s campaign seeking younger employees as complainants of race discrimination. In order to combat this effort it is more critical than ever to include younger employees in compliance efforts to show them that your company is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce, and that religious discrimination of any form absolutely will not be tolerated under any circumstances. This way, if and when the EEOC comes knocking on your company’s door your employees will let them know that they work in an environment of tolerance, and where a culture of compliance is fostered.

Syntrio’s Compliance Continuum is an innovative means of getting your corporate message of compliance across. We believe that the best way to connect with employees of all ages, whose attention spans are getting shorter is to keep them engaged and ensure the message gets across. We offer a vast array of short-form videos preparing the user for our entertaining, engaging and interactive training courses and keep the content fresh and custom to the needs of your business. With the EEOC seeking a new batch of Plaintiffs during a tumultuous period in American History, now is the time to keep your users informed and aware that religious discrimination will not be tolerated at your company.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid costly incidents associated with employment discrimination. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact for more information about our Preventing Religious Discrimination online courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company

“Survey Says:” Not Enough Training for Corporate Directors

Your company may feel like it is doing all it can to train managers and employees. You may even feel like the amount of training needed is oppressive, and difficult to keep up with. Compliance Officers, Human Resources Professionals, Cyber Security Directors: Everyone is realizing the value of training to accomplishing their specific compliance goals. But are the decision-makers and those pulling the finance strings actually practicing what they preach? A recent survey by e-learning provider Navex Global revealed the answer is a resounding no.

The survey interviewed 644 ethics and compliance professionals, and found that companies continue to under-train their boards of directors on data privacy, workplace harassment, conflicts of interest, and other ethical dilemmas when compared with other members of the company. This result is perplexing to say the least given that these individuals are responsible for managing not only the finances of a corporation, but its overall direction and oversight. 

The risks of leaving board members in the dark on training issues are real. First and foremost, failing to train c-suite executives and boards of directors on issues such as cyber security and workplace harassment threatens compliance programs before they have a chance to get started. Indeed, when conducting a compliance initiative the first members of the organization who should be consulted are those individuals who hold the power to approve funding for that program.

At Syntrio we preach a top-down philosophy of compliance, where leaders and decision makers not only embrace training and compliance, but are knowledgeable and educated on these issues as well. When board members are not encouraged to be involved in a training and compliance program they are proven to be less likely to approve financing for these programs as a whole. From the top the pyramid can crumble.

Second, when you hear of a major harassment issue in the workplace that makes major news the perpetrator is more often than not a high level executive, and often a board member. Just last week we saw Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes resign amid horrific allegations of sexual harassment. Ailes was accused of psychologically abusing and harassing subordinate employees for over 20 years. This story was of course just the latest in a long line of executive and board compliance failures to happen in recent weeks. Given that only 12% of the 644 compliance professionals surveyed responded they are training board members on workplace harassment these stories seem far less surprising.

The subjective news stories match the quantitative data and confirm your thoughts. High-level executives get into more compliance-related trouble than others in large part because they receive less training on how to avoid them. Syntrio is a leader in the ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. We want your company to be a leader in training your executives and board members on the issues that can derail the company quickly.

Contact for more information about our ethics and compliance online courses for and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!