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 www.syntrio.com 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

Taboo Work Topics: New Years Training for Managers

Your management employees are some of the most important members of your company team, not only because they are looked at as leaders of your business but also because company liability can be imparted through their actions. Indeed, things your managers do and do not do are the most frequent source of company liability. How can this be? For one thing, your managers are a legal extension of the business itself.

In the same sense that your business cannot represent itself in a court of law, the actions of your managers do represent the business (at least in a legal sense). Therefore, it is important to keep managers trained and educated in the numerous pitfalls that cause businesses to pay large settlements on a routine basis. It is always in your best interest to remind managers of the following things not to discuss in the workplace, either with a prospective employee or a current one.

Relationship Status

Many managers like to be a member of the team, and therefore ask personal questions of employees. Although being “one of the guys (or girls)” is always a good strategy, it is never acceptable to ask questions that may make an employee feel that he or she has to reveal information about his or her sexuality. There are both state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, and questions about the status of relationship, marriage, or sexual orientation (if severe and pervasive) can lead to a hostile working environment that can be construed as sexual harassment. In general this is a topic that managers should be trained to avoid.

Religion

Managers should never bring up the topic of religion at work, even if asked to do so by an employee. Although many managers feel as though they are unbiased with respect to religion, this is a hot button topic that is also a protected discrimination category. Accordingly, if an employee takes a manager’s comment as harassing or feels as though he is being placed under pressure to work on religious holiday because of a manager inquiry, that employee may have a claim for religious discrimination.

Race, Color, National Origin and Age

Although employers are beaten over the head about race and age discrimination in articles and online, they still fail to adequately train their managers about inappropriate comments that lead to costly lawsuits. This is because “off color” comments are often thought of as innocuous and innocent. Truthfully, these types of comments are what get employers into huge trouble with the law, often with respect to age-based comments like “old timer” and “we need to get younger and have more energy.” Typically it is the employer who should be metaphorically “beating the manager” over the head with information about taboo topics in the workplace, as they are the employer, and can cost the business large sums of money.

Of course these are not the only taboo workplace topics. Should your business feel as though its managers need further training, do not hesitate to contact Syntrio at 888-289-6670 to discuss your compliance efforts and any issues that may be arising within your company.