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Despite all the court cases, warnings and complaints concerning the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and employers, news headlines indicate companies big and small apparently aren’t paying attention.

That’s not to say all companies are guilty. They’re not. In many cases, it’s too easy to be falsely accused.

On the other hand, published reports show even big companies are violating common sense in management of employees.

All you have to do is surf Google News with the term, EEOC cases.

Discrimination with promotions

The EEOC, of course, gets involved in a myriad of complaints ranging from sexual harassment to retaliation to discrimination.

It’s true that certain people are identified and groomed for promotion. But a 2011 study by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business indicated large companies need to be more sophisticated in their human resources programs.

Ninety-two percent of the surveyed senior executives said they witnessed favoritism. Eighty-four percent said they’ve seen it at their companies. But only 23 percent confessed using the practice.

Research firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted a study headed by PSB’s Jonathan Gardner, who is also a grad student at the university.

“This study confirms what many have suspected – that favoritism plays a much greater role in employee advancement than companies normally portray,” Gardner said. “I hope this study will help us acknowledge the prevalence of favoritism in employee promotions so that we can find ways to better understand the role it plays.”

According to the school, 29 percent admitted they only considered one candidate in their last promotion of a person.

“When more than one candidate was considered, 56 percent said they already knew who they wanted to promote before deliberations,” said the school. “Not surprisingly, of that group, nearly all – 96 percent – report promoting the pre-selected individual.”

What were the reasons given for promoting an employee?

The top five answers:

  • Has excelled in current position
  • Leadership potential
  • Job-related skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • History of strong performance reviews

Mr. Gardner showed some understanding of the typical executive’s dilemmas.

“Employees should keep in mind,” said Mr. Gardner, “that despite widespread favoritism, objective measures such as past performance, leadership potential, and job-related skills are viewed as key criteria by those in charge of promotion decisions, and it is important for young workers to focus their efforts on these factors that are well within their control.”

In our litigious society, however, the risks are great. Not to mention employee morale if word gets out in the rumor mill.

So, the key is to know how to avoid EEOC discrimination suits,

But if it’s too late and an EEOC complaint has been filed, here’s a basic checklist:

  1. Be comprehensive with detailed, strategic responses.
  2. Have a paper trail for your HR decisions. Documentation is critical.
  3. Make certain your responses are accurate.
  4. Show your track record’s consistency in fair treatment of employees.
  5. Respectfully educate the EEOC about your business – don’t assume EEOC employees understand your actions.
  6. Act with confidentiality. Demonstrate your respect for individuals’ privacy.
  7. Respond promptly. Don’t delay. But if need-be, ask for extensions of your appeal.
  8. Have a good lawyer, and seek advice.
  9. Assuming you have insurance including employment-practices liability coverage, keep your carrier in the loop.
  10. Keep all relevant documentation.

So beware and good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related HR strategies:

HR: Is it Time to Rethink Your Marijuana-Testing Policy? — For HR departments, it was once-unthinkable: Deleting Marijuana from the list of drugs in workplace drug-testing programs. But should you? And what should you do about your handbook policies?

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These 13 Red Flags Are Signs Employees Dislike You — Your employees might not tell you that they hate you, but there are many signs that will tip you off.

10 Tips to Plan for Your Critical Discussions with Employees — Careful planning is necessary before you give an employee an appraisal or in advance of terminating the person. Here are 10 tips.

Legal HR Issues? Best Practices in Workplace Investigations — As an employer, one of your biggest nightmares can be issues involving your employees. There can be many reasons to conduct an investigation. “Action expresses priorities,” said Mohandas Gandhi. So you should act quickly.

“Discrimination is a disease.”
-Roger Staubach


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.