Protecting Your Business: What Updated Discrimination Guidelines Mean for Your Company

June 17, 2024

Rely on Syndeo to help you understand and apply the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines.

In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidelines. These new guidelines further define workplace harassment and address the complexities introduced by modern technology, including social media and the prevalence of video conferencing. 

While it might seem like an additional burden for already busy business owners, understanding and addressing these guidelines within your team now can save you future time and resources. By leveraging the knowledge and expertise of your HR partner, Syndeo, we can help you navigate challenging employment situations and mitigate the risks associated with EEOC claims.

In this article, we will explore the purpose of the EEOC, highlight some of the new guidelines, and examine preventative measures business owners can take to avoid EEOC claims. 

The Purpose of the EEOC

Created to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment, the EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information in employment. By investigating complaints made through the EEOC website, the commission has the authority to require businesses to take action to stop discrimination through workplace changes or lawsuits, if necessary. 

In addition to investigating claims, the EEOC educates employers and employees about non-discriminatory laws. Businesses should evaluate their harassment policies in response to the newly released guidelines. This due diligence will ensure a safe, non-hostile work environment, establish an effective system for reporting harassment, and provide training for all employees about their policies.

Updated EEOC Guidelines

The new guidelines aim to integrate practical and legal advancements over the past 25 years. The introduction of new technologies, such as the commonality of video conferencing within the workplace environment or the expanded usage of artificial intelligence, for example, can have far-reaching effects on workplace dynamics. The new guidelines attempt to preemptively address potential concerns by clarifying terms and defining situations common to the age of technology we live in.

The new guidelines address:

  • Harassment based on sexual identity or sexual orientation
  • Harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, and issues stemming from those including lactation and contraception choices
  • Harassment based on skin color or an individual’s pigmentation
  • Conduct over video meetings
  • Conduct on non-work related platforms like social media
  • Single-incident reporting
  • Intraclass harassment (meaning harassment of one person of a protected class from another of the same class)

While this article is not intended to discuss each of these in detail, becoming aware of new guidelines is essential for business owners, managers, and supervisors. An updated understanding of these guidelines by all levels of your organization will help to minimize your company’s exposure to risk in the EEOC context. 

For more information about these categories, the EEOC website provides detailed information about the new guidelines, along with examples of what does and does not constitute harassment. 

Syndeo advises our clients on EEOC risk.

There are many risks associated with operating a business, particularly in the realm of employment law, where the EEOC comes into play. As your premier HR partner, Syndeo is well-versed in advising clients in EEOC matters; our goal for every Syndeo client is to prevent the perception of adverse actions toward certain people of protected classes. 

While we cannot completely eliminate the risk of potential complaints, we collaborate with our clients to ensure they treat their employees in accordance with EEOC standards. The first step to acting lawfully is understanding what is lawful. Syndeo educates our clients and helps them evaluate all their options when making business decisions that may impact their employees' employment status. For example, we conduct layoff analyses and demographic profiles to assess potential liabilities when a client needs to downsize their workforce. These analyses and reports help us understand how layoffs might disproportionately affect a protected class, increasing the risk of an EEOC claim. If we identify a pattern of adverse impact on a specific class, we provide recommendations to help our clients proceed in a way that complies with EEOC standards and guidelines.

Navigating ADA compliance to avoid legal risk: One client story

One Syndeo client had an employee who qualified for long-term disability. The client planned to terminate the employee as a formality, knowing the employee could not return to work. However, this action could be seen as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and increase their risk of an EEOC claim. 

Our Syndeo business partner, with their extensive knowledge and experience, helped the client recognize this risk and recommended offering appropriate accommodations, such as a leave of absence, instead of immediate termination. By providing these accommodations, our client could demonstrate their commitment to non-discrimination based on ability, thereby reducing their risk of legal repercussions. This is how Syndeo, your trusted partner, helps you prevent discrimination.

How Syndeo helps you prevent discrimination. 

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that's our guiding principle. We provide consultation services to assist our clients with employment decisions. We can help you objectively evaluate layoffs, demotions, or any other actions that may negatively impact your employees. Consulting with your HR business partner can offer valuable insights to minimize risk as your company navigates these decisions. Effective feedback on your decisions is best achieved when our team has the opportunity to assess the situation. We provide objective advice to ensure legal compliance and collaborate with you to present a range of options, from high risk to low risk, enabling you to make fully informed decisions.

Preventative education on fair treatment.

Our focus is to position our clients optimally to defend against potential EEOC claims by educating them on the processes, standards, and guidelines that ensure fair treatment of employees. Without a resource like Syndeo to help evaluate employment decisions and assess potential risks, business owners and managers may make hiring and termination mistakes that expose their companies to avoidable claims. We empower our clients with knowledge of employment laws and their implications, helping them minimize adverse actions toward employees and prevent EEOC claims.

Staying up to date on pertinent legislation.

Syndeo HR business partners are knowledgeable and current on relevant employment legislation, serving as a true partner for your organization. For instance, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act now mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. This legislation, effective from June 2023, also includes small businesses that may not qualify for family medical leave. At Syndeo, we keep up with such legislation to offer expert advice that ensures compliance in your operations.

Developing and implementing effective training.

Additionally, the Syndeo team offers tailored training for new supervisors and managers overseeing employees. Based on your specific needs, we can create customized sessions that address the particular challenges your managers and supervisors encounter, introducing them to Syndeo and the support we offer. 

Our training can cover topics such as handling sick leave notes, family medical leave (FMLA) requests, managing conflict in the workplace, correcting employee behavior or performance, or how to respond to employee complaints. These sessions can be conducted in person or virtually and can occur at whatever frequency is necessary. We can design them as Lunch’n’Learn opportunities, Q&A sessions, or even videos that provide the exact information your supervisors need. Beyond a wide variety of training sessions on HR topics tailored to meet client needs, we can also provide access to our robust library of additional training offerings for your team to complete as necessary. 

Leverage your HR partner.

Although addressing the updated guidelines may seem like an added responsibility for already busy business owners, doing so now can save you time and resources in the future.  Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate challenging employment situations alone. Syndeo is your experienced partner here to help reduce your risks associated with discrimination claims. Our team provides tailored support and expert advice to ensure your compliance and foster a fair, inclusive workplace environment.

If you have more questions about the EEOC, the updated guidelines, or your training needs, contact Syndeo at 316.630.9107.  Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe to our newsletter for more thought-provoking HR content from Syndeo. To learn more about how outsourced HR services can get you back to business, contact Syndeo today!

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