Discrimination within the workplace and in employment decisions is entirely illegal. In fact, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other coinciding legislation strictly prohibit the denial of someone's employment based on their characteristics such as gender, race, religion, etc. Even with this act in place for decades, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still actively oversees and enforces EEO laws for companies that have at least 15 employees or more.
However, for those of you with less than 15 employees, it is still best practice to have an EEO policy within your employee handbook to not only protect yourself against a potential lawsuit, but to give employees and candidates the peace of mind knowing that their opportunities are not dictated on their personal beliefs or features.
What Is an EEO Policy Exactly?
Equal employment opportunity, aka EEO, is a fundamental concept for all employers, employees, and job candidates, as it touches every single stage of the employee lifecycle. From Diversity and inclusion to harassment and complaint elements. But the significant thing to remember here is that through this policy ensures employees or job applicants have equal opportunity, it does not aim to create equal outcomes. In other words, this law "levels the playing field" per se, so any class of human who has been harassed or discriminated against in the past are not subjected to that treatment now.
For easy reference, here is a quick overview before diving into element details that this policy applies to between a company and its relationship to its employees.
Wages and salary
Other employment terms, including privileges and conditions
Complying with federal laws/regulations concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Retaliation (adverse action that is taken because an applicant/employee asserted their rights under the Title VII, or participated in an EEOC proceeding that included testifying)
*These principles with the EEO policy also apply to the selection and the treatment of any independent contractors or personnel who are working on your premises that are employed by a different agency that you are doing business with.
Key Elements and EEO Policy Structure
Jumping into the actual key data points, take note that the beginning of any EEO Policy should list the purpose of the document, what version it is, and if there were any updates to that newer version, they should be listed out. This is also where you can instill your business’s mission, values, and promise to treat everyone fairly under this blanket policy.
When it comes to the actual sections for an EEO Policy, you do not have to categorize each of the bullets above, but you do need to touch upon each one. For example, in my free template, the first points that are covered include the equal opportunity laws and how the business is complying to it and the punishment if they do not (termination and other disciplinary actions).
My template also states that no one would be turned down for a role based on their appearance or characteristics, and the business values on preventing that from ever happening.
Though it would be awesome if this documentation would deter issues from ever arising, you also have to be realistic and understand that not everyone is going to follow it. It is an unfortunate event, but it is also why you should be prepared if this happens inside your own business. Because of that, EEO policies need to highlight for employees on where to seek assistance if they feel like their rights are being violated, and any retaliation guidelines if something were to come up within the workplace.
After listing out what your company values, will comply with, and assuring that there will be no tolerance for discrimination or harassment, you also have to provide them with a complaint procedure. As stated above, it does happen from time to time, and being prepared for it is ideal. With that being said, it would be a good idea to assign someone within human resources to be the point of contact for any EEO complaints and list their name and information within the policy. You may also want to showcase where the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office is as well as the closest Fair Employment Practices Agency. Doing so will assure your employees that any complaints they may have will be handled professionally, confidentially, and will be investigated in a timely manner.
*If there was a case that arose, instruct your EEO complaint point of contact to have the employee write down all the necessary details of the illegal incident(s) such as the time, location, date, action, and any witnesses.
Retaliation is another element that you will want to incorporate and make a primary feature in your EEO Policy. This is essentially the section where your business displays its non-tolerance towards retaliation against employees who filed an EEO complaint or are witnesses to an allegation. When you write your policy, you need to clearly, and non-ambiguously state that your company will, again, not tolerate it and that there will be disciplinary actions if not followed. In summary, this section does two main things for the workplace:
· One being it guides others who are involved with your business to comply and obtain the core values to have a smooth, diverse, and inclusive environment at all times.
· Second, it allows employees/candidates to feel safe in filing a claim and not have to worry about the repercussions of doing so. People can feel like they can express their rights without the fear of having sudden or unexplained workplace retaliation because of it, such as strange assignments, getting disciplined more without reason, facing gossip, being teased, etc.
Conclusion - EEO Template
Always remember, having an EEO Policy, even if you are small enough to not be regulated by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is always a good idea. This not only safeguards your employees and applicants, but you and your business as well. For instance, not only will this attract more employees to want to work with you because they feel like they will be fairly treated, but it does play a significant role in protecting you down the line if a claim were to arise.
So, even if you know your values and fostered an equal opportunity business, it’s time you put that down on paper to solidify the confidence in others that you mean it. Now, there is quite a bit of information and detail that goes into formatting an EEO policy to have in your employee handbook, but with my EEO policy template, you can streamline the process. All of the critical data that every business needs is already laid out, so all you have to do is fill in the blanks to make it your own. I know how busy you are, so I wanted to make this as simple and easy for you as possible, and this template is the sure-fire way to get your policy in place without feeling like you are falling behind on other tasks.
Again, an EEO policy is vital for your business, and if you do not have one yet, or the one you currently have is outdated, make sure to carve out some time to prioritize this aspect so you can maintain or grow a wonderful, diverse, all-inclusive work culture.