By Dr Leah Hollis, author of Unequal Opportunity: Fired without cause? Filing with the EEOC…
Raquel had been a rising star in her company since her initial point of hire four years previous. She had landed major clients, bonuses, and was recognized regionally and nationally for her work. Despite the recession, Raquel’s life was laden with hard work and well deserved pay. She had made the necessary sacrifices by delaying marriage, relocating three times, while reaping the financial rewards. Raquel was at the height of her earning power. Her performance record was so solid, no wonder she didn’t flinch when her boss retired. So of course, the new boss, Jacob would value her as a longstanding member of his team, even though she was passed over for his position. Or so she thought.
All teams go through the aches and pains of adjusting to a new leader. Raquel felt the tension between Jacob and the rest of the team was no different. Everyone was adjusting to his new communication protocols, and reporting expectations. Therefore, when Raquel walked in to her weekly meeting with him, with the Director of Human Resources present, she could only anticipate a conference about one of her direct reports. The meeting was short… not sweet…
“You’re fired….” Jacob blurted out. “We are going in another direction. Budget cuts.”
Raquel was stunned. Clearly this was a joke. She had earned letters of commendation the last three quarters straight. Her slack jawed pause allowed Jacob to continue…
“You can have the next two hours to clean out your desk. We already cut off your internet service. It’s 3 pm now. You should be out by 5 pm…”
Raquel had nothing to say…what was this some reality show? When will the commentator come out…? Candid Camera… You’ve been PUNKED… something?!?
The HR Director did and said nothing. Jacob got up and went to the window. “You have two hours…”
Raquel’s mind was spinning. She just built an addition on her house with a second mortgage. Sure she could call headhunters, but she couldn’t move. Budget cuts? But they just hired two staff member last week… Budget cuts?
Raquel’s story unfortunately is played out every day in this recession. What Raquel’s manager and many other managers don’t realize is that Raquel and other jilted employees feel betrayed and start looking for ways to be heard. At this point, they have nothing to lose by pursuing a lawsuit. More than ever, employees know the federal discrimination laws, and know where to file a complaint either with the EEOC or an attorney. Employees who are well educated or advanced in their careers are more likely to file a complaint. Because they command higher salaries, possible damages and back pay rewards are lucrative.
What should employees do while on the job or after termination? Leah Hollis, President of Patricia Berkly LLC and author of Unequal Opportunity, Fired without cause? Filing with the EEOC offers several strategies for those considering filing a discrimination lawsuit.
While Raquel was still on the job, hopefully she took basic steps to document her performance by:
- Keeping all records notes, letters, and emails that discussed her personal performance. Organizations have a responsibility to keep staff updated about job performance expectations.
- Keeping a copy of these performance records AT HOME. Similar to Raquel’s case, the
- Internet, intranet, and computer access is often the first thing an employer shuts down. However, employees don’t have a right to proprietary information, only information on their performance.
- Professionally confirming the boss’s expectations and objectives in writing shortly after meetings. If an employee has questions, or believes expectations are unfair, she should calmly and logically express these concerns when the expectations are established. Don’t wait for months down the road when unreasonable expectations can’t be achieved.
- Reading the employee handbook, no matter how boring. Know the rules that the employer is playing by. They are responsible for adhering to their own policies as well.
Raquel was terminated. Being fired is like being punched at recess by the school bully. Most people don’t see it coming, and feel knocked to their feet in front of the world. Despite her emotional state, she took a deep breath, regrouped and considered her options:
- Raquel did some soul searching. Perhaps this was divine intervention. Was this an opportunity for another career path or to follow other interests?
- But, on the other hand, those copious notes regarding her job performance were worth their weight in gold as she considered a wrongful termination complaint. Her notes revealed a pattern of gender discrimination since her last boss retired. First of all, she was more qualified than Jacob.
Once Raquel assessed the situation and decided to pursue legal action with a formal complaint, she had two options:
- A). To seek the EEOC/and state human relations commission to file a complaint. This option cost Raquel nothing. They conduct the investigation and require the employer to explain why there was a termination. The complaint must BE CLEAR. Do you believe you were fired because of your gender, your race, your age (if over 40)? You must be explicit with this claim and provide documentation of reoccurring instances where your membership in a protected class (gender, race, age, religion, background, pregnancy) was a compelling element in your termination. If the EEOC doesn’t resolve the matter in a year, the terminated employee will often receive a right to sue letter, and can proceed to option B. At this point, seek an employee attorney since many will take the case on contingency.
- B). Seek an employment attorney. Whether the employee comes straight to this option OR waits to get the right to sue letter from the EEOC, the complaining employee still needs to have her ducks in a row. The duration of the average lawsuit is 22 months, but in some cases, carries on much longer. With a strong case, stay with it because it can provide vindication.
After 26 months of exchanging paper work, conciliation meetings and then mediation, Raquel had proven a clear case of gender discrimination. With the assistance of an attorney, she was awarded a year and half back pay, less attorney’s fees. During the course of the case, Jacob faced two other gender discrimination complaints and resigned from his post before Raquel’s settlement was final.
In 2010, the EEOC reported close to 100,000 new discrimination cases. Every day, about 550 small businesses are tagged with discrimination lawsuits.
Have you or some one you know experienced discrimination or unfair treatment at work (based on age, race, gender, religion or national origin)? We would like to hear your story.
For more detailed information on this topic and how people have handled various types of workplace discrimination, visit our website at www.diversitytrainingconsultants.com or check out Unequal Opportunity: Fired without cause, Filing with the EEOC on Barnes and Noble.com.Read More
Some were saddened to read that diversity management might have been lacking at McDonalds here in greater Philadelphia. Diversity management could have helped McDonalds avoid a very costly workplace bullying case. Lacking diversity management led to a $90,000 settlement for a young man who was bullied at work. Diversity management would have trained the supervisor and staff not to harass this young man with cognitive challenges. Diversity management is not just about developing cultural sensitivity; diversity management would continuously train staff. An organization like McDonalds is particularly vulnerable when a diversity management plan is not in place. Staff attrition is high at such jobs, but a diversity management plan can help keep that staff compliant.
Often organizations believe they don’t have time for diversity management. However, consider what happens in the absence of diversity management. Diversity management could have helped the organization avoid costly legal fees. Diversity management would have helped this McDonalds avoid a time consuming discovery process. Diversity management is priceless; diversity management keeps organization compliant with changing trends in hiring, recruitment and retraining. Diversity management can keep manager educated to avoid Title VII complaints. Without proper diversity management, organizations expose themselves to staff problems. Diversity management is a necessary cost of doing business… just like any other training.Read More
According to the US Census, our community is evolving to be a “minority majority” country. In several states, minority children are actually in the majority under the age of fifteen. So just what is diversity? Diversity is beyond a black and white race issue. Then what is diversity? It is beyond a man versus woman issue? What is diversity again? Diversity is about understanding the different background and experiences of people and embracing those differences? What is diversity? It describes a group of people, whether they are in the same race, gender age or background, but understanding they are all unique individuals. What is diversity? It is the fabric of our schools, communities, and workplaces. What is diversity? It is ubiquitous and constant.
What is diversity management? Diversity management moves beyond the tolerance that we discussed in the 1990s. Diversity management includes a leader’s understanding of what motivates people from different classes, races, regions, ages and experiences. What is diversity? From a leadership point of view, it is also the clear knowledge of Title VII, FMLA, and ADA rules that help a manager not only answer the question “what is diversity” but make decisions properly informed by federal laws. When a staff member asks “what is diversity” and why is it important, a leader can recognize that diversity is at the root of innovation. What is diversity? It is the germ of diverse ideas and solutions which emerge from a diverse workforce. When companies engage different demographics and ages, knowing the answer to “what is diversity” can lead the way to opening a new market share, and creating diverse revenue stream.
So when you think, “What is diversity,” it is the current trajectory of our population. In regard to business, when we think, “What is diversity,” it is at the root of problem solving and innovation. What is diversity? The answer changes in every community. But the answer to “what is diversity” lies in our ability to embrace difference and respect the civil right of each other. What is diversity? It is just good business.Read More
Fall is a traditional time to get back in the swing of things with the beginning of the school year and people returning from vacation. Subsequently, the fall has been quite hectic for Dr. Leah Hollis, President of Patricia Berkly, LLC. In early fall, Dr. Hollis was featured on WBZN to discuss her book UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Also, Dr. Hollis was featured with Coach Ron Tunick from Ventura, CA. The Pacific Coast drive time radio show informed listeners on how to be on the lookout for discriminatory behavior in the workplace. Later in September, Dr. Hollis visited St. Francis University to offer diversity training for staff and students. Workshops included “Inclusive Curriculum” and “The Intersection of Bullying and Diversity” for the athletic department. Her busy day culminated with a lecture: “Changing Agents: Innovators, leadership and diversity management.”
September also included a visit to the business owners at the Lions Club in Flemington, NJ to discuss “The Perfect Storm: Retaliation in the Workplace.” The most recent EEOC statistics again reveal that retaliation was the leading complaint area in 2011, surpassing race and gender discrimination complaints. Visit the Patricia Berkly LLC YOU TUBE Channel for lectures and other critical information on workplace discrimination.
Later the same month, Dr. Hollis also visited with the PA- NOW Conference in greater Philadelphia to present “Care for the Caregiver.” As the EEOC advises, gender discrimination is not just about being discriminated against because of gender, but also due to the care giving duties typically assigned to women.
The fall continued with a hectic schedule for Dr. Hollis as she presented “Up to Date- Out of Court: Five Updates every employer should know.” Her legal update of Supreme Court cases was provided through the Johnstown Chamber for Commerce for HRCI credits for Human Resources professional in the Laurel Highlands. The same weekend, Dr. Hollis presented a lecture for the SUPER SIXTY of Richland High School and their parents. In these tough economic times, Dr. Hollis conveyed her message of positive imagery and optimism to actualize goals and objectives. October concluded with a national webinar on Workplace Bullying and Employee Engagement. Participants attended from corporations and higher education to learn more on this critical topic plaguing the workplace. Through the year, Dr. Hollis has addressed the topic of bullying, harassment and discrimination. While bullying is technically legal, it is costly and debilitating to any organization. Visit the Patricia Berkly LLC YouTube Channel for lectures and other critical information on work place discrimination.
November will continue with a busy schedule as Dr. Hollis makes a second appearance on the Jim Blasingame Show from Alabama to discus workplace bullying. She also authored “Avoiding Bullies in the Executive Talent Acquisition Process for Todd Raphael of ERE.net. With events planned in late December, and Spring 2012, Leah Hollis of Patricia Berkly LLC has been on the move!Read More
Even if an organization is located in an “at-will state”, it still must comply with Federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The EEOC has reported again an all time high in the number of complaints with 99,922 complaints reported in 2010, up over 7,000 complaints from 2009. ”Retaliation” now leads the complain area, surpassing “race” as the most common complaint.
The recession has certainly had an impact on the record number of complaints. In the past, dissatisfied or poorly treated workers would find other employment. In a sluggish economy, people stay in bad situations longer, and find themselves the target of potentially discriminatory practices. Further, employees are more educated about the laws and are more likely to exercise their rights in a fiscally challenging environment. After being fired, and with meager job prospected, terminated employees are more likely to sue than to simply walk away from a situation where he or she experienced a tangible loss.
Retaliation is the largest complaint area, yet one of the easiest to avoid. Once an employee complains about his or civil rights, he or she should not face adverse employment action.
In short, retaliation is when an employee complains, and something bad happens to them.
Retaliation is not just about being fired; it can include other employment actions such as demotion, transfer, or a change in shift.
Employers who have regular training can avoid falling into a snare of the changing EEOC rules. As the breadth of retaliation has changed in 2010 and the fact that ORAL complaints are now viable, organizations needs to keep managers and supervisors compliant with the EEOC rules to avoid costly lawsuits.
Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Review HR policies regularly to insure these policies comply with most recent legislation,
2. Invest in a regular training calendar. Training is far cheaper than the cost to defend a law suit,
3. Keep in mind that diversity training is nice, but it application to EEOC policy is critical,
4. Take ALL complaints seriously and include HR BEFORE changes in employment status for those who complained.
For more information, visit Leah Hollis, the President and Founder of Patricia Berkly LLC a diversity training and consulting group. Dr. Hollis has conducted several lectures and assisted clients with this issue. Her group is atwww.diversitytrainingconsultants.com.
The recent book Unequal Opportunity, offers details about discrimination and harassment cases, and suggests solutions for managers. Visitwww.diversitytrainingconsultants.com for more details.
Contact: Patricia Berkly LLC for training solutions that can help your organization.
Companies who offer diversity training know that END(A) is a legislation introduced on the federal and many state levels to protect LBGT workers. Similar to other workplace discrimination laws, if passed, END(A), Employment Non discrimination Act would add lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered staff to the list of protected classes. Companies who offer diversity training know they need to remain as one of those companies who offer diversity training as the tide is continuously shifting in the workplace.
Companies who offer diversity training need to stay updated with the many changes in EEO Law. Ignorance is not an excuse for the law; companies who offer diversity training therefore are protecting themselves against unwitting mistakes in the very dynamic and ever changing field of EEO Law. Companies who offer diversity training realize that such continuous training is the smart way to conduct business. Companies who offer diversity training would know if they reside in one of 21 states who make it illegal to discriminate against staff based of sexual orientation (or perception of sexual orientation).
Companies who offer diversity training would also know that constant training is a necessary cost of doing business given the multiple changes to EEO Law. Therefore, companies who offer diversity training need to invest in this type of education just as they invest in updates in equipment or software. Companies who offer diversity training know the trend is clear; people who previously sat on the margins of opportunity aren’t going to take it any more. Last year, the EEOC reported record complaints in gender, race and retaliation complaints. Companies who offer diversity training are better prepared to avoid such problems.
In a recent discussion, with Patricia Berkly LLC, a vice president a human resources comments how companies who offer diversity training are staying ahead of the curve. Further she stated” I read Unequal Opportunity. Your book really helped us avoid a discrimination complaint. I am still coaching my staff with that information…” Patricia Berkly LLC is a noted leader for companies who offer diversity training and designs custom training to meet a client’s needs.Read More