To help small businesses comply with their employment law obligations, the Small Business Task Force, established by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), recently issued a new simplified, one-page fact sheet. The fact sheet is focused on assisting small business owners to understand their responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination employment laws. The EEOC’s fact sheet, “Preventing Discrimination is Good Business,” provides a short overview of small business legal obligations under federal anti-discrimination laws.
According to the EEOC, its Small Business Task Force is also working on producing a series of short YouTube videos (a definite viral hit waiting to happen) designed to provide additional employment compliance resources. Additionally, the Fact Sheet contains information about other EEOC resources available for small business owners.
What Should be in Your Employment Law Toolbox
Of the points outlined in the Fact Sheet, we find that small businesses routinely face challenges presented by adequately responding and investigating discrimination complaints. On this point, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related federal nondiscrimination laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and applicants based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, citizenship status, disability, genetic information and veterans status. Additionally, employers must also comply with state anti-discrimination laws that may include a more expansive list of protections than federal law.
But what should be covered when it comes to developing an EEOC policy? This question should be addressed to an experienced employment attorney, but here are a few points that need to be part of that discussion:
- Nondiscrimination clause – First and foremost, every business should have a nondiscrimination clause. This clause will outline your business’ commitment against unlawful discrimination. This is analogous to a “mission statement” for companies that ideally guides the business in all its employment related decisions.
- Procedures for Reporting Harassment – Your company’s employment policies should explain and provide employees with a confidential means to report discriminatory conduct or harassment. The goal of this provision is to allow employers to discover, investigate, and resolve discrimination or harassment complaints before such matters get turned over to the EEOC or similar state agency. Additionally, the policy should expressly assure employees that their complaints will be handled objectively, promptly, and without reprisals. Further, the policy should provide that an employee’s participation in internal investigations regarding such complaints will not be subject to retaliation or other reprisals.
- Anti-retaliation Statement – Employers also need to ensure that their EEOC related policies emphasize that employees and applicants are not retaliated against: (i) because discrimination complaints are filed; (ii) for opposing discriminatory practices; or (iii) participating in investigations of such complaints.
Again, these are just a few of the “big-ticket” items that businesses need to address in their employee personnel policies and documents. Also, these provisions will ideally be incorporated into a comprehensive employee personnel strategy for eliminating or reducing employment law risks, in addition to making the company an attractive workplace environment.
For more information about federal or Michigan employment law compliance, as well as drafting employee policies and procedures, contact employment attorney Jason Shinn. He routinely works with businesses of all sizes, including start-ups, to provide cost-effective employment law counseling and solutions for complying with federal and Michigan anti-discrimination and employment related laws.