The EEOC identifies “eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring” among its top six priorities for fiscal years 2013 through 2016, which likely portends an increase in investigations and litigation directed at staffing firms for which recruitment and hiring are bread and butter. Recent events suggest that the EEOC’s focus on class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against protected classes of individuals will indeed subject the staffing industry to greater scrutiny.
Law360 (subscription required) reported this week that the EEOC settled six discrimination charges lodged against Sedona Staffing for $920,000. The crux of the EEOC’s claims was that the staffing firm failed to refer job applicants to its clients on the basis of the applicants’ race, national origin, age or disability. As part of the settlement, Sedona Staffing also committed to providing annual equal employment opportunity diversity training to its recruiters and to retaining an independent consultant to revise the company’s hiring and recruitment policies and procedures.
The EEOC’s enforcement priorities and recent successes in enforcement warn that, now more than ever, staffing firms should ensure they have non-exclusionary referral and hiring policies and procedures in place. In particular, staffing firms should beware of policies and practices that—intentionally or unintentionally—channel individuals into specific jobs due to their status in a protected group. Staffing firms should also be on the lookout for restrictive application processes and their use of screening tools such as pre-employment tests and background checks. Finally, firms should ensure that employees receive regular diversity training with a particular focus on non-discriminatory referral and hiring procedures. Such proactive measures are best practices as well as any staffing firm’s best protection from the EEOC’s gaze.