Tag: discrimination

Racial Bias Costs Merrill Lynch $160 Million

12 current and former black brokers of Merrill Lynch were awarded a large settlement in a racial discrimination class-action lawsuit against that firm, one of Wall Street’s biggest.  The brokerage house had been accused of creating a hostile work environment and of having allowed discrimination in hiring, promotion and pay.  It is hard to imagine that of approximately 14,000 financial advisors today only 2% are black; in 25 of the 50 states there are no black brokers.  But beyond the statistics, what’s wrong here?

The Merrill Lynch Board of Directors is ignorant or stupid.  That is what is wrong.  If they claim ignorance, then I hope that they have replaced their most senior HR management with professionals who actually have a clue.  Even average managers understand that a diverse workforce usually leads to better business performance.  New HR management should immediately establish a Diversity Council comprised of cross-functional leaders to spark the charge.  What they should do?  It’s not rocket science, but taken to lengths see the below extract for practical ideas and initiatives from an article by Michele E. A. Jayne and Robert L. Dipboye [Human Resource Management, Winter 2004, Vol. 43, No. 4, Pp. 409–424 © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)].

Sample Diversity InitiativesDon’t be stupid or ignorant about diversity.   Ask our HR Experts for more advice at www.hrinsights.com.


The HR Experts for Small Business

Online Recruiting

Online recruiting: easy and reliable, right?  Sure if you use it correctly and you don’t solely depend on it.  There are a few issues that come along with online recruiting that you need to be aware of before you use it regularly.

In order to reach different groups, avoid discrimination and maintain diversity, make certain that your recruiting strategy includes a few different methods.  By relying on the internet, you narrow your search audience down and also open yourself up to discrimination accusations.

Also, you need to make sure to protect yourself from online viruses.  Make sure that whatever host receives your candidates online has a more stringent anti-virus filter as well as a dedicated individual or team of individuals regularly checking up on the host.  Be on the lookout for corporate employment sites seeking writing samples or other outside attached documents.

While you must keep an eye out for malicious incoming viruses, you must also hamper your urge to immediately delete the obvious discards.  Again, by automatically deleting the first wave of obvious rejects, you open yourself up to discrimination accusations.  Before deleting these applicants, print them off or save them in a file for at least a year along with any necessary paperwork.  Your company needs to clearly define an “applicant” and practice that policy.

Because e-mail is so easy, we sometimes become less formal in our communications with potential candidates.  However, e-mail is your paper trail in any legal case or as evidence of discrimination.  E-mails between recruiters and potential candidates need to remain formal, succinct and clear.  Most companies develop standard responses to the more frequently asked questions from potentials.

Lastly, make sure your “default” settings for the copy in your ad is compliant with your state regulations.  Generally, this default is set to federal standards regarding equal opportunity.  Check the settings and amend if necessary.

How Are You Preventing HR Lawsuits?

A study done by Jury Verdict Research on employee complaints leading into employee lawsuits was done last year.  It shows that the median settlement for all employment related lawsuits in 2009 shot up by 60% from 2008.  The average settlement amount of these lawsuits was $326,640.  These shocking numbers reinforce the need to implement accountability in HR without restricting employees’ productivity.

Many HR Departments concentrate on how to avoid being sued by employees filing grievances.  Though this procedure may be necessary, there are ways to go about it that do not encroach onto employee rights and still allows employees the opportunity to grow and flourish.  When employees are held accountable by being told to create the infamous “paper trail”, it reduces their opportunity to grow themselves within the organization because they spend time creating the paperwork and they also spend time worrying about being held accountable.

On the other hand, how does an organization prevent unhappy employees from retaliating against the company?  Employees have to be held accountable for their HR issues.  The difficult part is determining where to draw the line between basic necessities and being overcautious.  There are a few things you can do in HR to anticipate certain problems and handle them proactively.

-The study done by Jury Verdict Research says that your company will most likely pay the highest settlement in retaliation claims, especially after they see a supervisor who took a dislike to an employee after they’ve filed for discrimination.

-If the claim goes to a jury, your company will pay most for discrimination cases.

-The claim that your organization will see the most is sex or race discrimination.

Knowing this can help alert HR departments to higher priority situations.  Go over your HR policies and make sure you have a program or supplemental service in place to ensure that you know how to deal with managing your HR and knowing when it can become a major problem.