Everything you do involving personnel, from advertising a job opening to saying goodbye, is governed by equal employment opportunity laws. It's a big field, including anti-discrimination laws covering race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability and family status. The best approach is prevention of possible violations. To do this, take three key actions:
- Know the at least the basics of equal employment opportunity law, maintain a library in which to look up specifics, and call on legal advisers when you're not sure.
- Train employees to prevent EEO violations, such as harassment of other employees.
- Let your staff know that you not only follow the law but also embrace it.
Know their rights – and yoursIt's important to know what you need to do to comply with EEO laws and when you may be exempt. For state compliance rules, check with your state's labor department.
U.S. EqualEmployment Opportunity Commission maintains Web pages specifically covering small-business owners' concerns.
Train your managementThe government and private training companies can help you become adept at handling EEO issues.
EEOC Training Institute offers manuals, on-site training and seminars around the nation. ELT – Employment Law Learning Technologies provides online training programs in harassment, hiring and termination, and general EEO issues.
Teach your employees, tooInformed employees will know they can bring compliance problems to you for solution.
Training Network sells harassment-prevention employee-training videos and DVDs in English or Spanish. Employee University has employee and manager versions of its videos, which include same-sex harassment as a topic.
Show them you embrace diversityDon't just follow the law; let employees throughout the company know you've caught the spirit of valuing a diverse workforce.
- Age discrimination is the most common complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Avoid screening job applicants on the basis of previous salary; doing so could be interpreted as age discrimination.
- When screening anyone for hiring, promotion or any other employment-related purpose, stay within the law by focusing on that person's abilities.
- Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they are not forced to do so if it would cause financial hardship.
- Substance abuse is considered a disability under the ADA; employees can be disciplined for poor work habits, but not because of the addiction.
- The law allows hiring only a man or only a woman under special circumstances called bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs). However, it has been argued the only undisputed BFOQs are a wet nurse and a sperm donor.