ou would think employers would be smarter in this day and age. All of the following occurrences actually happened, although as HR professionals you may have a hard time believing they did. But trust us—they were (some still are) real EEO cases. Think about what you would have done to prevent them or to put a permanent stop to them. And while you roll your eyes at how dumb some allegedly bright people can be, don’t forget—thank you, Donald Sterling—they’re still out there. They are the best argument anyone can make for not dumping HR:
- The company admitted that it refused to interview the pregnant applicant, but contended it was because the applicant was not at "her goal weight." Therefore, by definition, she was unable to perform the duties of the position.
- This company actually paid female shift managers and female cashiers/sandwich makers lower wages than their male counterparts even though they did substantially equal work.
- This supervisor made these disparaging remarks, among others: That his hiring practices would make his sales team look “like a cheerleading team,” that management was going to think his hiring technique was to create a “harem, [and] that he does not like working with employees who were 'long in the tooth.’ ”
- This law firm fired an administrative employee who told the office manager she was pregnant. Then they sued the admin when she complained to the EEOC about the firing.
- This employer issued written warnings to five employees who used the employer’s email system to communicate with their coworkers about a new background check requirement. All the while, its policy permitted employees to use its email system for nonwork-related activities.
- The day she returned from maternity leave, an employee was denied immediate access to a lactation room despite increasing discomfort; was told she had two weeks to catch up or she would be disciplined; then she was told, when she became visibly upset, that she needed to go “be with her babies.”
- This Alabama catastrophic insurance claims company refused to hire a black woman who wore dreadlocks in contravention of the company’s grooming policy that required employees to have hairstyles that reflected a “business/professional image” and were not “excessive.”
- A plant manager fired an employee who had been the subject of a harassment investigation, after the employee admitted to doing the harassing. Then one of the owners of the company rehired the offending employee and fired the plant manager.
- A male TSA employee began working on a team with a new female supervisor, who started flirting with the employee, arranged her schedule so she could walk with him to and from the parking lot, suggested they have sex in her van, invited him on out-of-state training trips, and made suggestive comments. When he rebuffed her, she told him to stop turning her down. Thereafter, the employee’s performance evaluations were lower and he received a smaller bonus than in the past, and was eventually terminated.
You may be asking “really?” Really!
Not only did these events actually occur; they also cost, or will cost, the company plenty of money to defend and settle the claims. And frankly we could have given you a lot more than these nine. They and others like them are the best argument we can make for making sure that when you budget for HR, budget for training—both compliance and soft skills. Worried about ROI? Just calculate the dollars the above companies had to spend, or are spending, on attorneys.
HR should measure these occurrences like an OSHA safety measure, using the stoplight approach. Imagine the impact on a manager walking into HR and seeing the green stoplight, then after talking to you, seeing it turn to a blinking red.
An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
Source: EEOC, Mondaq, Fox Rothchild 4/23/14, CCH