EEOC Issues Fiscal 2016 Performance and Accountability Report

EEOC Issues Fiscal 2016 Performance and Accountability Report

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) just released a 104-page document summarizing recovery and enforcement action in the past year. The November 2016 update states that the EEOC recovered a staggering $482.1 million dollars on behalf of discrimination plaintiffs in private, state and local government sectors across litigation, conciliation, and mediation matters. Important to note, these figures do not include lawsuits disposed of in private litigation.

The EEOC’s report also indicates that the number of charges resolved increased by 6.5 percent over fiscal 2016 and that the agency handled over 585,000 calls to its office via a toll-free number. At this time, the final litigation statistics have not yet been released, but the EEOC’s report makes it clear that employment discrimination is alive and well as a problem in today's work environment.

Strategic Plan Well Underway

Earlier in 2016 we alerted our readers to a strategic enforcement plan that was developed by the EEOC. The highlights of this plan included a concerted effort to get the word out about the necessity of training and education for employees and employers alike about the growing discrimination problem in America. The EEOC’s November confirms that this plan is bearing fruit for the agency in the form of increased awareness and resolved charges, yet not in the implementation of training programs by employers.  For this reason, it is paramount that your company engage in active training of your workforce to get ahead of the curve, before the EEOC’s watchdogs arrive at your door.

Younger Workers and National Origin Discrimination also Key

Two other key issues discussed in the strategic enforcement results are Title VII’s prohibition against unlawful harassment based on national origin and a concerted effort to educate and engage younger employees to eradicate discrimination in the workplace. These hot button issues came to light in the hotly contested, and just concluded Presidential election campaign, and a large number of immigrant and young employees concerned they will be facing a backlash in the form of employment discrimination.  

You must remember that you have an obligation to provide your workforce with the kind of training that will keep them engaged and thinking about these issues long before they reach the litigation or charge stage. As noted in the November 2016 report, the EEOC is making a concerted effort to reach those potential plaintiffs who they feel are at the highest risk for discrimination. Make sure that your employees are well-trained and well-educated or face the harsh consequences that led to almost $500M in EEOC recovery in fiscal 2016.

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 www.syntrio.com for more information about our employment discrimination prevention online courses for and remember to follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

 

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.

What is Business Ethics?

What is Business Ethics?

The term “ethics” is literally defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. “  The word itself is derived from a Greek word “ethos” meaning “custom” or “habit.”  Extrapolated to the business community, “ethics” means the set of systems or belief systems that guide our practices. In short, what we believe is “right” and how we go about achieving our goals. 

How do we Think of Ethics?

Ethics is often analogized to playing by the rules in sport.  An athlete or team has many different means of getting to the end.  Some baseball players are interested in the bottom line and choose to bend or break the rules to achieve greater statistical success, thereby increasing their bottom line and their earning potential.  Others believe in the history of the game, or the greater good for growing the sport through achieving their means in a “clean” fashion. 

How will Your Organization Achieve its Ethical Goals?

The means by which a business achieves its goals for success are the very ethics that guide it.  By adhering to an ethical code of conduct that “plays by the rules” businesses not only set themselves up for long-term success (often at the cost of short-term profits) but also gain reputational capital in the form of a good name in the industry or community in which they operate.  There is certainly value to be derived from being known or referred to as a company that “does it right” or “plays by the rules.” 

What can we do to Improve Adherence to Ethical Standards?

In the present it is more important than ever to implement policies and practices that demonstrate an adherence to standards of ethical conduct that are widely accepted in the industry or business community in which you operate.  By training your managers and executives in the ethical philosophy of the business you can create a solid foundation upon which your business can operate in the present – and grow in the future, both in profits and in reputation. 

Although it may sound simple to “play by the rules,” there are often close calls that arise that an untrained manager may not be prepared to deal with.  Indeed, the black and white situations usually are obvious; if the business has policies in place promoting the aversion of illegal behavior it is generally simple to police your managers from engaging in overtly illegal conduct.  But what about the “grey” areas? You need to determine what is most important to your business, short-term profits or the potential for long-term gains and reputation within the community.  By examining what is most important you will often find that the risks of engaging in questionable conduct will outweigh the potential reduction in short-term profits.

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 www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.

Code of Conduct 101

Code of Conduct 101

Recent corruption scandals and the associated PR fallout have created a buzz in the business community concerning ethics standards and codes of conduct across multiple industries. While people (especially the media) are talking, it appears that many do not know where to begin when it comes to implementing a formal code of conduct or business ethics policy.  Indeed, while many businesses have publicly expressed their desire to adhere to a strict set of ethics, those same companies have difficulty putting the pen to paper to get their beliefs into a formal statement.

How do you implement an ethical structure within your organization? The first thing to do is put pen to paper on a business code of conduct. This may seem like a daunting task that requires professional assistance, but it doesn’t have to be. Assuming your company desires to adhere to a certain set of beliefs or rules from the top down, which is what compliance is all about, you can quickly formulate a philosophy that will have all members of your organization thinking about compliance in short order.

What is a Code of Conduct?

A code of conduct is a formal statement containing a set of beliefs and principles by which a business aims to exist.  The code of conduct is typically a written statement that is publicly available to employees, competitors and clients alike. While not necessarily a long document, the code of conduct serves to put others on notice that the business adheres to a strict set of moral principles and vows to maintain the highest standards of business ethics. 

Frequently, a code of conduct has several derivative policies that display the business’s values. For example, a non-discrimination policy would be a “compliance with labor and employment laws” portion of a broader provision on “legal compliance.”  Likewise, a policy prohibiting bribery, both domestically and abroad, would certainly be important for a business that is operating overseas (or even in the U.S. if you believe the circumstances are right).

Codes of Conduct are Specific, but Broad Enough to Give the Reader an Overview

While the foregoing statement sounds contradictory, there is a fine line between giving the target audience too much information and using general sweeping language that the company “promises to uphold the highest standards of integrity in the business community.” The latter sentence does not tell the audience exactly what standards the business aims to aims to uphold.  For example, a broad statement followed by a series of bulleted “fine points” that the company wishes to elaborate on would be a better way to go.

Keep in mind that the best codes are industry and company specific.  Therefore, there may be a wide variety of other topics that could be crucial to your business. Therefore, it is important that you seek specific training to learn the nuances of business ethics and code of conduct implementation.

We Want to Implement a Code of Conduct, What Goes into it?

Absolutely anything you feel is critical to tell your audience can go into your code of conduct. However, the following is a non-exhaustive list of items your code of conduct may seek to cover, and can get you started:

  • Company Mission
  • Prohibition on bribery and corrupt payments
  • Adherence to the law
  • Description of honest corporate culture
  • Culture of respect
  • Prohibition against bullying
  • Respect for employee, client and customer privacy
  • Open desire for competition in the marketplace
  • Health and Safety standards

Again, the foregoing is simply a very brief list of the types of topics that commonly go into modern company codes of conduct. Undoubtedly, the best policy is to provide training to your employees on codes of conduct and the consequences that can occur if they choose not to follow them. After taking our detailed training course on business ethics your employees and managers will be better educated on these topics and will come away looking at your code from an honest, fresh, and clean perspective. Your business will then be ready to convince those you deal with that your company has ethics at the forefront of its mission.

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 www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.

Lawsuits Take the Cheer out of Holiday Parties

Lawsuits Take the Cheer Out of the Holiday Party

When it comes to employment law compliance, perhaps no event on the work calendar is as controversial or stress-filled as the office holiday party.  Once a spectacle of corporate excess and consumption, many companies have chosen to eliminate the grandiose holiday party altogether, both for economic reasons and due to the many risks that are inherent in providing employees with the opportunity to get together (likely around alcohol) at a company-sponsored event. 

As most companies do not want to be seen as anti-holiday cheer, forward thinking businesses are conducting workplace harassment and discrimination training courses.  Even though it is only November, you may already be planning your holiday party for 2016. You must remember that it is never too early or too late to train your managers on the core principles discussed below as they apply to the other 11 months of the year.

Religious Discrimination Issues

One of the most common forms of compliance issue stemming from a holiday party involves religious discrimination.  The holidays are fraught with heightened employee sensitivities.  These issues become worse when the company “Christmas Party” or “tree decorating ceremony” become offensive to an employee of a particular faith.  From a management perspective you may feel as though you are placating the majority, but that sort of thinking is exactly what the discrimination laws were enacted to avoid. 

Religious discrimination is one of the trickier areas of employment law.  For this reason it is of the utmost importance that your party be known as a “holiday” celebration with neutral decorations and theme.  Better yet, invite employees to bring in decorations for display that represent their faith and display a diverse range of ethnic and cultural décor to show the company’s commitment to diversity.

Some Employees Take Holiday Cheer too Far

There are countless stories of workplace harassment occurring at office holiday parties.  Frequently the precursor to unacceptable behavior is excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages at the holiday party.  It is very important that you stress to your managers and employees that harassment is not tolerated, and that consumption of alcohol at the event must be done responsibly.  Indeed, holiday parties breed claims of harassment from both men and women, and can occur at any time.  Remind employees that the holiday party is a work event and that there is an anti-harassment policy in place.  Perhaps most importantly, managers and executives should practice what they preach and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.

When the Party is Over it’s Over

In addition to harassment at the party, nothing good ever happens at “unofficial” after parties hosted by management, either at their house or at a bar (even if the bar is at the event venue).  After parties, while often well-meaning, lead employees to feel pressured to participate or excluded if they are not invited.  Indeed, a certain breed of “bro” or “bro-ette” employee is usually in attendance at these events, which frequently become debaucherous and a breeding ground for harassment and other illegal activity.  They simply are not a good idea.  Make no mistake, claims against the company can arise from “after-parties,” and the results can be disastrous.  For a variety of reasons this is most definitely a practice to prohibit.

Syntrio Can Train Managers to Avoid Holiday Party Pitfalls

 Maintaining a positive company culture and avoiding compliance traps is a fine line.  Syntrio can help train your managers on the nuances of the law that will help formulate an effective policy for use at holiday parties and throughout the year.  Contact www.syntrio.com for more information and remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.