Fire Department Facing the Heat of the EEOC

A municipal fire department is facing an in-depth investigation by the EEOC following a flurry of complaints regarding discrimination in the ranks.  As individuals have been interviewed, news reports indicate that the allegations of discrimination certainly involve sex discrimination as a bias against the “three F’s” – meaning individuals who were fat, female or homosexual (an unfortunate slang term was used instead) – by top brass.

How can employers nip such problems in the bud and protect and promote a merit-based workforce?

  • Ensure that employees receive ongoing training regarding workplace policies and laws are a means to reinforce EEO policies and to give them more than lip service.
  • Take deliberate steps to train manager and leaders within the organization to utilize relevant and objective measures in how they conduct business, espouse the value of a diversity of ideas and experiences, and understand the policies that are in place and their relationship to applicable laws.  Here, where individual liability may exist, buy-in to the concept of fair workplace practices shouldn’t be that hard to obtain.
  • Investigate, follow-up, review, etc. every concern that is raised.  When the “little stuff” is treated seriously, the “big stuff” is unlikely to come as any surprise (if at all).
  • Where top leaders in a division or a department are involved, bring in an external workplace investigator, such as those at One Mediation, to bring a trained and unbiased set of eyes to the situation.  If there is a problem, it can be solved.  If there is not a problem, the situation can be explained.
  • Train HR professionals, legal counsel, and risk managers to conduct effective follow-up and investigations of employee concerns, whether anonymous or otherwise, through training that is offered from a variety of vendors, including One Mediation (next course offered June 15, 2012).

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