EEOC Looks at Disparate Treatment in 21st Century Hiring Decisions
By Julia Feinberg, AAPD Policy Intern
On Wednesday June 22, 2011, AAPD attended the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) meeting on “Disparate Treatment in 21st Century Hiring Decisions,” held in Washington, D.C. The EEOC is chaired by Jacqueline Berrien with Stuart Ishimaru, Constance Barker, Chai Feldblum, and Victoria Lipnic as Commissioners. The meeting looked at how discrimination during the hiring process affects minorities, including people with disabilities. Nine witnesses were called to provide evidence and discuss the impacts of disparate hiring practices.
During the opening statements, all Commissioners noted that working is not only important financially but also for an individual’s sense of self-worth and connection to their community. They also noted the difficulty of reporting and getting information to people who have been discriminated against in the workforce. It was discussed many times during the hearing that often people do not know they have been victims of hiring discrimination.
Recent Cases: EEOC General Counsel David Lopez described a successful court case where two deaf men were refused employment by Wal-Mart. The Courts ruled in the men’s favor and, as part of the settlement, a television ad was played for several weeks promoting the employment of people with disabilities. This ad was shown in the hearing and had a visible affect on the Commissioners. Lopez also described a clip from an ABC show “What Would You Do?” where two deaf women applied to be kitchen workers in a café and were refused jobs. While some customers stood up to the discrimination they saw, others gave the manager legal advice saying he should have accepted their applications and not called them instead of outright saying he wouldn’t hire them because they were deaf. These “advisors” were professional recruiters and managers.
Silent or Covert Discrimination: The first two panels focused on “silent discrimination,” where the employer doesn’t outright say or show that he or she is discriminating. This was a recurrent topic throughout the meeting. It especially came up during discussion of contingency or temporary staffing agencies, that is, companies that match employers with employees looking for work. Since hiring laws are different for the contingency agencies, many companies can get away with discriminatory hiring practices by using these types of companies.
Bill Lann Lee, an attorney at Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker, & Jackson on the first panel called this “covert discrimination.” Grace Speights, attorney at Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius, and Katherine Kores, an EEOC District Director in Memphis were also on the first panel. The second panel was composed of Supervising Trial Attorneys Kate Boehringer and Diane Smason at the EEOC Baltimore and Chicago offices, respectively, with Ana Lopez and Jeannette Wilkins as Charging Party Members in two major EEOC cases. This panel highlighted the real life challenges of workforce discrimination and gave an in-depth look at how companies use covert discrimination.
Research and Training Issues: Marc Bendick from Bendick & Eagan Economic Consultants and General Counsel Rae Vann from the Equal Employment Advisory Council, a non-profit employer association, discussed discrimination research and training on the third and last panel. Bendick provided staggering statistics about the prevalence of discrimination in the workforce and also specific industries that were especially “hard core discriminators.” For instance, he said that 20-25 % of people have encountered hiring discrimination across all fields of the workforce. Advertising and construction industries were among the worst with about 67% discriminating against applicants.
Vann concluded the meeting by outlining the training programs that the EEAC has developed over the past few decades to reduce workplace discrimination. The hope is to change the attitude within all offices so that anti-discrimination is company policy, not just federal law.
Resources: To file an EEOC complaint or “charge,” go to the link http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm
To learn more about ADA and disability employment protections go to http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
Question: Have you experienced silent or covert discrimination as a person with a disability seeking or maintaining employment? Please comment in the box below or tell us via email to Policy@aapd.com