2020 has proven to be a challenging year for all types of businesses. While many aspects of business operations have changed in order to incorporate COVID-19 safety protocols, one thing hasn’t – equal employment opportunity (EEO) compliance. Understanding how to ensure a business is EEO compliant is incredibly important for business owners at any stage in order to ensure a fair working environment for employees and to avoid potential employment disputes and claims.
What is EEO Compliance?
Maintaining EEO compliance is one of the most critical things when it comes to owning and operating a business. As a part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “equal employment opportunity” refers to a government-mandated set of civil rights protections against employment discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age, and other such factors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that ensures employers across all industries comply with Title VII and all EEO laws both federally and statewide.
In Texas, an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason, as stated in the employment-at-will doctrine. However, there are federal and state statutes that place limitations on this doctrine, such as prohibiting employment discrimination, preventing employers from basing employment decisions on an employee belonging to a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) is a statewide version of the federal employment statutes that protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information, with the intention to provide Texans with the same rights afforded under federal employment discrimination statutes. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state agency tasked with enforcing the TCHRA. It has authority over claims of employment discrimination that occur within the Lone Star State.
How to Maintain EEO Compliance
While most businesses can maintain EEO compliance by simply being fair, this unfortunately isn’t the norm for all workplaces. With this in mind, the following steps should be taken to maintain EEO compliance:
Unconscious bias in employment has become common; for instance, some employers pay women less than men, Black people less than white people, or will refuse to hire someone solely because of their gender identity.
In other instances, employers could fail to institute policies that address how to properly respond to and handle discrimination allegations. Failure to respond to allegations could imply the company does not think discrimination is a serious issue. Because of this, it’s imperative that employers adequately address these potential issues in order to ensure each employee is treated fairly.
Provide Adequate Accommodations
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is separate from EEO laws, providing the necessary accommodations for employees with disabilities should be a priority for any business. Having a disability means more than simply having issues with mobility. According to the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, meaning that everything from impaired senses to autism spectrum disorders can qualify as having a disability.
Affirmative Action Programs
While it may not be required for employers to have affirmative action programs, it’s important to consider drafting one. This is because an affirmative action plan can outline the steps a business takes to proactively recruit employees from a diverse group. An affirmative action program should include certain statistical goals.
Despite most employers not being legally required to have an affirmative action plan, some federal contractors must have one in place. In the event a company has federal contracts, there are guides available that detail the requirements that must be met.
Post Required Notices
Title VII, the ADA, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act all require employers to post workplace notices explaining the rights these laws afford employees. These notices should be posted in high-traffic areas of the workplace to avoid EEO violation penalties. If an employee files an EEOC complaint and notices have not been posted, the business could be fined even if the EEOC finds no other wrongdoing.
File EEO Reports
If a business has over 100 employees, an EEO-1 form must be filed each year. This is also true for federal contractors with and least 50 employees and $50,000 in contracts. EEO-1 forms detail the racial, gender, and ethnic makeup of each sector of an employer’s workforce. Therefore, even if your business is not required to file an EEO-1 form, completing one may assist in assessing EEO compliance.
Houston Employment Attorneys
Maintaining EEO compliance is incredibly important for any business. If your company is found to not be EEO compliant, no matter the area, it can face certain scrutiny and the reputation of the company can be damaged. To avoid this, employers should consult with an employment attorney to ensure EEO compliance. At Feldman & Feldman, we understand the pressures business owners can be under; and, because of this, we work to resolve any legal issues a company may be facing in and out of the courtroom. If your business is facing an EEO compliance dispute, contact our office today for more information on how we can help.