The EEOC claims have risen drastically over the past year. This could be contributed to the fact that terminated employees are finding it harder to find another position after leaving a corporation so are looking for ways to bridge their lost income.
The rise in the claims does not mean there is more discriminating going on, but rather more people seeking ways to offset their loss of income. If you are an employer and have terminated employees over the past year, for any reason, your odds of being contacted by the EEOC have just increased.
EEOC Mediation - the basics from an employer’s side
I recently had the pleasure of attending an EEOC mediation on behalf of a client. This client, like many employers, was impacted by the economy and had to eliminate a department of approximately 7 employees. All employees were laid off. The employer was generous and the employees impacted received 3 months notice and a week for every year of service if they signed a release.
EEOC Charge Notice. We received an EEOC notice of discrimination in the mail first. With this, you should respond with all documented facts in the case. This would include copies of employee handbook about discrimination policies, employees acknowledgement of the handbook, the lay off package, summary of the others involved in the lay off also if applicable.
After the EECO reviews the information they will do one of three things:
1. request more documentation from you
2. request mediation
3. schedule an onsite interview session
Mediation. If mediation is requested, it is best that you cooperate and attend the session. If you are in metro Atlanta, you will have to go to the EECO office down town. Beware - parking is a bear so go early.
You will be asked to go through security and sign in. You will go to the floor directed and sign in. You will then meet with your mediator (this information will have been given to you previously through the mail). Be sure to bring your mediators name as this is critical to sign in.
You will be brought back to a mediation room with the person who has brought the EEOC charge. You will both be given the agenda for the day and the role of a mediator. The mediator will verbally go through the document with you. You will then be asked to sign acknowledging your agreement to mediate and your understanding of the mediator’s role.
Remember with mediation, the mediator is not a judge who is going to determine right or wrong. They are simply there to try and get the two parties to come to an agreement. The agreement could be unfair, but they are after an agreement. They cannot make you agree to anything you do not want to. So go into the meeting with what your "final" solution is.
The mediator will then allow the person bringing the EEOC charge to explain their case first. Take notes, but do not comment out loud. Be attentive and listen. Refrain from gasps and other body language - no matter how out landish the comments are. You will be given your opportunity to speak. You want to be known as the person who is rational and calm.
When it is your turn, be prepared with concise facts and timelines. Bring documentation and reference it, but this is not the time to go into great detail in showing it. Show compassion for their plight, but reiterate your stance of non-discrimination. Be prepared and plan ahead!
The mediator will then break you both out into separate rooms. This is where they will meet with each party separately to see what each is wanting and willing to give. This will be some times your first insight into what the past employee is requesting.
When the mediator comes back in, if they do not offer what the person wants, then ask them. This is the time to point to your facts and documentation. Be clear and organized. The more organized and calm you are, the better.
The mediator will take your offer back to the past employee and the negotiating has begun! Remember, you can start with simply offering to change the status of their termination in your system, or offering a letter of reference that states their employment dates, position held, etc. You do not have to start or end with money.
In the end, it is your decision as to whether you can accept what is being presented. Remember though, if you do not settle at the mediation - then you will be undergoing the next steps of an EEOC investigation. This could mean interviews of other employees onsite, interviews of the manager, etc. Just know that if you walk out without resolution, you will be investing time and money to provide information to the EEOC investigator.
The mediation can go on all day. Remember to bring money for the snack and vending machines.
If resolution is met, they will type up the details and ask both parties to sign off on them.
If you cannot reach agreement then the investigation will resume. Remember the EEOC investigator will not be the mediator. The good news is the mediation will help you get your facts and documents organized if you can not reach a resolution.
We are here to help! Our team are experts and working with clients on EEOC investigations and mediations. Visit our website for our contact information http://www.laihr.com/ or firstname.lastname@example.org.