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

2016 Brings New California Employment Discrimination Law Challenges

As 2015 comes to a close and we prepare to turn the calendar to 2016, employers must prepare for some important changes coming to California’s employment discrimination laws. This post will briefly cover two of the major changes to California’s discrimination and retaliation laws that prompt further training for your managers and employees in the coming year.

Protection for Family Members When an Employee Engages in a Protected Activity

Assembly Bill 1509 is effective January 1, 2016, and adds new protection for family members of employees who complain of discrimination or unsafe working conditions. This law is relevant to employers who employ multiple family members, or have client dealings wherein family members interact.

AB 1509 impacts management training directly, in that retaliation and discrimination training must cover situations where familial relationships cross over into the workplace. Many managers simply will not consider the fact that a refusal to deal with family members of an employee who has made a discrimination complaint will violate the law. In reality, AB 1509 can create liability for companies whose managers take these types of actions.

Protection from Retaliation Related to Disability or Religious-Belief Accommodation

Assembly Bill 987 (also effective January 1, 2016) prohibits employers from taking retaliatory or discriminatory action against those employees who request an accommodation for a disability or religious custom or observance, regardless of whether the accommodation was actually granted.

AB 987 has the practical effect of making a request for accommodation engagement in a protected activity, regardless of whether the request is granted or not. While this seems technical in nature, the application of this new law will have implications on retaliation and discrimination lawsuits in California, as many managers still believe that when a request is denied for good reason there can be no retaliation or discrimination. Managers need to be trained that policies must be revised to reflect that all employees making requests for accommodation must be treated equally.

As you can see, two seemingly minor changes in California discrimination law can have a major impact on the way the law will be applied. If it has been some time since your company has conducted California discrimination and harassment training , the beginning of 2016 could not be a better time to do so.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and associate litigation) that are associated with complicated areas of employment law. 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 prevention of discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your company!


Truck Drivers Win $240,000 in Religious Discrimination Suit After Refusal to Deliver Alcoholic Beverages

Two former truck drivers requested religious accommodation to refrain from delivering alcoholic beverages based on their Muslim Faith in 2009. The employer rejected the assertion and fired the drivers, leading to a lawsuit that recently culminated in a $240,000 (plus back pay) verdict in favor of the two employees. The jury found that the employees’ request for accommodation would not have imposed undue hardship on the business.

Important to the jury’s finding, the company admitted that the employees frequently switched assignments, which provided clear evidence that it would have been reasonable to accommodate the drivers’ request, rather than terminate their employment.

Religious Discrimination Lawsuits Gaining Prevalence

This lawsuit is the most recent in a string of anti-Muslim and faith-based discrimination lawsuits in the employment law arena. These suits have brought to light the need for employers to conduct full-scale training courses to ensure that managers are well educated in the law and how it applies to situations involving requests for accommodation. All too often employers are quick to reassign or terminate employees who make religious requests that do not conform to the beliefs the managers hold, or seem to impose difficulty on schedule making or other day-to-day operations.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state fair employment laws prohibit discrimination in employment decisions based on sincerely held religious beliefs. As part of the anti-discrimination laws, employers are required to accommodate reasonable requests that do not impose undue hardship on the business (a difficult standard to pass). Because the law protects even unconventional religions, employers are often faced with the difficult decision of accommodating an unorthodox request or facing a lawsuit.

Syntrio’s Training Courses Prepare You for the Unexpected

Syntrio’s discrimination and harassment training courses provide time-sensitive and cost-effective religious discrimination training through real-life and hypothetical situations that your managers can relate to. After providing a foundation in the law and a framework for how these types of cases arise, your managers will view a series of vignettes and some text-based scenarios illustrating nuances in the law that can lead to costly lawsuits. After doing so, your managers will be better prepared to make the tough calls on religious and other accommodation requests, and reduce the likelihood that the company will face liability and wind up in court.

Syntrio is committed to helping employers avoid the costly mistakes (and costly litigation) that are associated with complicated areas of employment law. 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 prevention of discrimination in the workplace courses for management and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that impact your company!


Supreme Court Decision Evidences Why it is Time to Conduct Interviewing & Hiring Training for Managers

On June 1, 2015 the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., an interview discrimination case brought by a woman who interviewed with the company while dressed in a Sikh turban head scarf. The Supreme Court held that individuals can raise claims of discrimination without proving that a company intentionally avoided hiring people who wear clothing for “faith-based” reasons.

Although the subject of the plaintiff’s religion did not come up during the interview, Abercrombie rejected the plaintiff for employment on the basis of its dress code, which prohibited headwear in its stores. Abercrombie argued that it was only liable to accommodate religious practices if it had actual knowledge of the prospective employee’s religious beliefs. The Court rejected that argument, and held what really matters is the employer’s motivation in rejecting an otherwise qualified applicant.

Interview and Hiring Training Highlights Key Distinctions in the Law

As you are undoubtedly aware, the pre-employment process is filled with legal pitfalls. Further, when a new opinion such as Abercrombie is issued the law becomes that much more complicated. With that in mind, individuals involved in the recruitment, interviewing and hiring process need to be familiar with the law so that they can avoid hiring practices that could be considered discriminatory or invasions of privacy.

Syntrio’s interview and hiring course discusses legal issues related to writing job descriptions, recruitment methods, interviewing, testing, and evaluating candidates as well as issues related to reference and background checks and offers of employment. It is critical for your managers to master the fundamental legal concepts surrounding these areas so that your company is well postured to get off on the right foot with employment law compliance. As the Abercrombie case shows, failing to follow the law prior to hiring an employee can be as disastrous as an employment lawsuit by a current employee.

Pre-Employment Screenings and Interview Questions are Hot-Button Issues

It is no secret that there have been numerous lawsuits filed over pre-employment tests that have an allegedly “disparate” impact on certain classes of people. Further, there is a significant amount of privacy litigation taking place concerning drug testing in the workplace (and the ever changing law concerning de-criminalization of recreational drugs). Finally, the questions managers ask (or fail to ask) during a job interview can place the company at risk of significant damages if a lawsuit is filed.

For all of the foregoing reasons it is critical that your company conduct routine pre-employment training for all managers involved in the recruitment and hiring process. Sytnrio’s interview and hiring training for managers course provides real life examples, and can be custom-tailored to suit the needs of your company or particular industry.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses maintain the highest standards of compliance when creating policies and pre-employment formulas that demonstrate their commitment to compliance with state and federal employment laws.

Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our business ethics courses and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your organization!


Happy Holidays – Will You Accept Service?

When it comes to human resources ethics and compliance issues, 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. Although your 2014 holiday party has either already occurred or will (likely) occur this weekend, it is never 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 Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!