Texas companies may be feeling the heat of potential Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations,
including the agency’s recent strategy of focusing on class-based
situations against employers — large and small — in an effort to
crack down on systemic workplace discrimination. The message is
Instead of simply looking at individual discrimination and retaliation
allegations, the EEOC is now often looking for policies, practices,
procedures or other patterns of wrongdoing that may affect dozens
or even hundreds of workers at a time in areas such as hiring, pay
and termination. Unfortunately, the tale often lies in the cold
realities of numbers, and if so, Texas employers may be wearing
targets with bulls-eyes.
In 2011, 10 percent of all workplace discrimination complaints filed
nationwide with the EEOC were from workers in Texas, the highest
single-state percentage in the nation. The most common complaints
involved claims about retaliatory charges, followed by claims of
race and gender bias, national origin bias and religious
discrimination claims. The high rate of complaints from Texans may
be setting the stage for a greater number of “systemic” (or class-
based) investigations in the Lone Star State by the EEOC.
Though all categories of EEOC discrimination charges have
increased since 2007, five categories have seen the greatest
growth. These are in claims for discrimination based on race,
gender, age, disability and retaliation charges.
In light of the increased threat of class-based investigations and
potential lawsuits, what should attorneys be telling employers to do
in these difficult times? It is now more important than ever to
thoughtfully manage the human resources aspects of the employer’
s business and to devote enough time and attention to ensure that
compliance with fair employment practice laws is a real priority.
Employers can be proactive or reactive in dealing with the
changing enforcement landscape of the EEOC. They can spend
more time and resources up front — or they can sit back and wait to
be taken to task by the government, acting on complaints from
employees who already have stories to tell about inappropriate
behavior and how their complaints fell on deaf ears. Employers who
choose to play the waiting game are clearly making a mistake. In
this arena, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound
For the thoughtful, proactive employer who is seeking to avoid the
courthouse in employment law matters, management should assign
responsibility to someone who is knowledgeable in the area of fair
employment practice laws administered by the EEOC and who is
vested with authority and will command respect.
12/21/2012 By Michael Abcarian © Fisher & Phillips
Michael Abcarian is an attorney in the Dallas office of Fisher & Phillips.
Republished with permission. © 2012 Fisher & Phillips. All rights reserved.
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