Best Practices of Private Sector
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Best Practices of Private Sector Employers
A. Introduction and Procedure
Commissioner Reginald E. Jones was appointed by Chairman
Gilbert F. Casellas to head the Task Force to study "best" equal employment
opportunity policies, programs, and practices of private sector employers. While the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission or EEOC) is the enforcement agency
responsible for compliance with its statutory mandates, the Commission has an important
role in facilitating voluntary compliance through education, training, outreach, and
policy guidance. Indeed, the primary goal of the Task Force is to facilitate voluntary
compliance in its examination of business policies, programs, and practices that will be
useful to employers in structuring systems and policies that are consistent with their
business priorities as well as with their equal employment opportunity (EEO) obligations
and diversity objectives. The Task Force also has presented employers with the opportunity
to showcase those policies, programs, and practices of which they are particularly proud.
Accordingly, the Task Force set out to look at noteworthy
business practices by which employers are complying with their EEO obligations and
diversity objectives, especially practices thought of as creative or innovative. The Task
Force also set out to catalogue its findings in such a way that they will be useful to
employers, especially smaller and medium-sized employers that are less likely to employ
professional personnel and legal staffs. Additionally, ideas were solicited about how the
Commission could better assist entities in developing best policies, programs, and
practices. The Task Force thus examined what statutory, regulatory, policy or operational
changes by the Commission may better facilitate the development of best policies,
programs, and practices.
The Task Force divided its study of policies, programs, and
practices into six major groupings: (1) recruitment and hiring; (2) promotion
and career advancement; (3) terms and conditions; (4) termination
and downsizing; (5) alternative dispute resolution; and (6) other.
The focus of "recruitment and hiring" is on affirmative recruitment programs
designed to create a diverse workforce, such as internships, recruitment strategies, and
education and training programs used for hiring. The focus of "promotion and career
advancement" is on programs that have eliminated barriers to the advancement of
women, people from diverse ethnic and racial groups, persons with disabilities, and older
workers (those forty or older). Such programs as mentoring, education and training for
purposes of promotion, and career enhancement initiatives were considered in this group.
The focus of "terms and conditions" is on disability and religious accommodation
programs, and on sexual harassment, pay equity, insurance, employee benefits, and
work-life and family-friendly policies and practices. The focus of the section on
"termination and downsizing" is on such areas as retraining and placement
programs for employees displaced by downsizing programs, nondiscriminatory early
retirement programs, and insurance. "Alternative dispute resolution" focuses on
early resolution of employment discrimination complaints and voluntary and effective
alternative dispute resolution programs. The "other" category embraces any other
policies, programs, or practices not readily identifiable in the previous five groups or
where there was an overlap between or among groups.
Since management commitment and accountability are driving
forces behind a company's EEO policies, programs, and practices, it was decided to devote
a part of the discussion in the report to this factor as well, thus creating a seventh
grouping of "management commitment and accountability." In terms of commitment,
the Task Force looked at what management was saying and doing. In terms of accountability,
the Task Force looked at tools such as performance appraisals, compensation incentives,
and other evaluation measures to reflect a manager's ability to set high standards and
The Task Force also decided to discuss a group of companies
that have EEO programs that are particularly noteworthy from a comprehensive perspective.
These companies addressed most, if not all, of the elements delineated above and deserve
comprehensive recognition for their programs. The Task Force, in addition, recognized
various partnerships, involving companies and the facilitation of employment opportunities
with other organizations and/or individuals.
The Task Force developed criteria setting forth what a
"best practice" is and does, which will be discussed, infra. The best
practices selected were generally viewed in terms of those criteria. The Task Force also
focused on those submissions that were more detailed in terms of the description of the
practice and how it worked, and that persuasively explained why the practice was of a
noteworthy nature. Furthermore, the Task Force favored those practices that were presented
with supporting data as to their effectiveness.
From the outset, submitting employers recognized that the
information the Task Force was seeking went beyond simple compliance with the EEO laws
enforced by the EEOC. When they received the Task Force request to hear about "Best
Practices," they knew that this meant more than just complying with the minimum
requirements of the law. No, this term inherently focuses on what a company is doing at
the level of compliance and beyond.
Unfortunately, time and financial resources limited the
scope of the group's work. The Task Force, as a whole, did not have the luxury of
conducting site visits or validation studies of the submissions. Essentially, work was
begun with an exhaustive review of the "best practices" literature. Thereafter,
paper examinations were conducted relying on stakeholders' submissions at face value,
although follow-up was done, where it was available and felt to be helpful. In sum, the
Task Force essentially considered whether the practice complied with the law, whether it
would likely promote effective equal employment opportunity strategies, considering the
barrier or barriers it was designed to address, and its fairness. Of course, the
additional element of demonstrable results was considered where available.
The recognition of best practices in this report is a
qualified one. The Task Force believes, however, that if appropriately implemented,
considering the factual circumstances surrounding the implementation, the cited practices
will be reasonably likely to promote equal employment opportunity. Indeed, the Task Force
takes as a given that in each instance the submitter believes the practice has been highly
successful in the promotion of equal employment opportunity and/or diversity, and, thus,
is deserving of recognition.
The Task Force wishes to stress that a best practice may
not be universally replicable on a successful basis regardless of employer or industry. We
think, however, that the recognition of the practices in this report can provide some of
our stakeholders valuable ideas on what has worked for other stakeholders. Such practices
may very well be the basis for replication, although individual tailoring to the
requirements of the individual worksite may be necessary.
Moreover, the Task Force notes that citing an employer for
a best practice does not mean that employer is necessarily a model equal employment
opportunity employer generally. A cited practice involves only a specific area of equal
employment opportunity. This is because it is possible, for example, that an employer may
have an excellent sexual harassment program and policy, yet that same employer may not
have an effective policy on the employment of people with disabilities. A model employer
must necessarily do many things, involving a multitude of areas, in a commendable manner.
We emphasize, however, that even those employers generally cited for recognition may not
be immune from criticism, given the parameters and limitations of the Task Force's study.
In sum, since time and resource constraints made it
impossible to validate the accuracy of the submissions, or to assess how they are being
implemented, it is important to emphasize that the Commission is not endorsing any
particular policy, program, or practice. Rather, the Commission's goal is to identify and
disseminate information about practices currently being implemented by employers which are
likely to promote voluntary compliance with the laws enforced by EEOC.
C. What is a "best" practice?
The report begins by identifying what the Task Force
considers to be relevant in determining what a "best" practice involves. This
was not an easy task. The Task Force recognizes that reasonable persons may differ on the
question. Nevertheless, the Task Force concluded that most stakeholders should be able, at
least generally, to agree with the framework.
In the view of the Task Force, a "best" practice
comports with the requirements of the law, as manifested in the Commission's statutory
mandates: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and
the applicable sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. A best practice promotes equal
employment opportunity and addresses one or more barriers that adversely affect equal
employment opportunity. Not only does a best practice present serious commitment from
management to EEO objectives, but it also addresses management accountability for equal
employment opportunity. Effective communication between management and the intended
beneficiaries of the practice, as well as with all other employees, is another consistent
best practice trait. A best practice embraces fairness to all employees. Finally, a best
practice is implemented conscientiously and shows noteworthy results.
D. "Best" Practice Findings
The second section of the report identifies the policies,
programs, and practices that the Task Force believes reasonably likely to assist the
employer community and related employees and employee groups in facilitating their equal
employment opportunity programs. As indicated, the Task Force divided its study of
policies, programs, and practices into seven factor groupings:
- Recruitment and Hiring;
- Promotion and Career Advancement;
- Terms and Conditions;
- Termination and Downsizing;
- Alternative Dispute Resolution;
- Other; and
- Management Commitment and Accountability.
The second section begins with those companies found to be
comprehensively noteworthy, and then identifies noteworthy companies in each of the seven
major groupings, including management commitment and accountability. Finally, the Task
Force discusses noteworthy partnership arrangements, or any type of collaborative effort
involving employers and another group, to achieve EEO worksite objectives.
Ultimately, the most successful companies have figured out
that it makes best economic sense to draw talent and ideas from all segments of the
population. Inclusive hiring and promotion practices bring into the organization segments
of the workforce that may well provide competitive advantage in the increasingly global
economy. Systematic exclusion of these segments denies these resources to the organization
and lessens the chances of eventual success. For these companies, pursuing diversity and
equal employment opportunity is just as integral a business concept as increasing market
share or maximizing profits. In this way, diversity and EEO become not just programs, nor
even separate departments, but rather a way of life that is integral to all business
activities of the company.
However, the EEOC Best Practices Task Force recognizes that
often it is not a simple matter for employers to comply with their obligations under our
civil rights and EEO laws. This can be complex legal terrain. The EEOC itself enforces
five separate statutes, and employers are subject to a myriad of other federal, state and
local statutes, ordinances and regulations that also govern the employment arena. Thus,
there is no substitute for strong commitment and hard work in this area.
The third section reviews "best" practice
findings from a conceptual perspective. Leading companies responding to the Task Force
seem to adopt what we call a "SPLENDID" approach to these issues. The acronym
"SPLENDID" stands for a series of actions that conscientious employers can take
to address EEO and diversity issues: STUDY, PLAN, LEAD, ENCOURAGE, NOTICE,
DISCUSSION, INCLUSION, and DEDICATION. A further explanation of
the concepts behind the letters of the acronym is summarized on the following page:
THE "SPLENDID" APPROACH
STUDY -- Since one cannot solve problems
that one doesn't know exists, know the law, the standards that define one's obligations,
and the various barriers to EEO and diversity. Assistance can be obtained from EEOC,
professional consultants, associations or groups, etc.
PLAN -- Know one's own circumstances
(workforce and demographics - locally, nationally, and globally). Define one's problem(s);
propose solutions; and develop strategies for achieving them.
LEAD -- Senior, middle, and lower
management must champion the cause of diversity as a business imperative, and provide
leadership for successful attainment of the vision of a diverse workforce at all levels of
ENCOURAGE -- Companies should encourage
the attainment of diversity by all managers, supervisors, and employees, and structure
their business practices and reward systems to reinforce those corporate objectives. Link
pay and performance not only for technical competencies, but also for how employees
interact, support and respect each other.
NOTICE --Take notice of the impact of your
practices, after monitoring and assessing company progress. Self-analysis is a key part of
this process. Ensure that a corrective strategy does not cause or result in unfairness.
DISCUSSION -- Communicate and reinforce
the message that diversity is a business asset and a key element of business success in a
national and global market.
INCLUSION -- Bring everyone into this
process, including white males. Help them understand that EEO initiatives are good for the
company and, thus, good for everyone in the company. Include them in the analysis,
planning, and implementation.
DEDICATION -- Stay persistent in your
quest. Long term gains from these practices may cost in the short term. Invest the needed
human and capital resources.
The suggestions above are just a small sampling of the
characteristics that seem to be common in most of the companies that operate their EEO
compliance procedures above and beyond the minimum basic legal requirements. Additional
ideas are set forth in each of the seven "best" practice areas studied. Since
these ideas are rather extensive, they are not discussed here.
E. Statutory, Regulatory, Policy, and Operational Changes
The fourth section considers what Commission statutory,
regulatory, and policy changes may be necessary to facilitate best practices. This section
also considers what the Commission might do operationally to facilitate best practices.
1. Statutory, Regulatory, and Policy Considerations
A Task Force committee was assigned to address Chairman
Casellas' request for a review of all statutory, regulatory, and procedural guidance for
their impact on the development or implementation of best practices, including, if needed,
recommendations for changes. After reviewing the comments received from stakeholders and
conducting our own assessment of the statutes the Commission enforces, as well as the
substantive and procedural guidance documents issued by the Commission, the Task Force
concludes that none of the Commission's current regulations or policy guidance hinder the
development or implementation of employer best practices.
In addition, based on the input from external and internal
stakeholders, the Task Force concludes that no recommendations to Congress for changes in
the statutes enforced by the Commission are warranted at this time. While Congressional
action to promote voluntary compliance with EEO laws and/or to facilitate employer
adoption of best practices may be possible, the Task Force received no specific comments,
suggestions, or recommendations in this area.
Finally, the EEOC has been and continues to be committed to
providing guidance to the public about the laws we enforce. That commitment includes
obtaining input from internal and external stakeholders about the type and kind of policy
guidance we should issue. The Office of Legal Counsel, which is primarily responsible for
development of policy for consideration by the Commission, regularly meets with a broad
range of external stakeholders, including personnel from other federal agencies, to seek
input on policy issues. The development of policy is also driven by the types of issues
that are reflected in our charge inventory and litigation docket, and by input from
investigators and attorneys in the field. The Task Force believes that the Commission
should continue to facilitate accessibility and responsiveness on policy issues, and
continue to welcome advice and comment from stakeholders on how it may better serve the
A summary of the Task Force's recommendations is as
- The Task Force recommends that the Commission place greater
emphasis on the development of procedural and substantive guidances.
- The Task Force encourages a comprehensive and speedy review
of Volume II of the Compliance Manual with input from external stakeholders in close
coordination with the Commission staff.
2. Operational Considerations
One of the key factors in implementing best practices is
for those affected by EEO laws to be well informed about their rights and responsibilities
under those laws. This section of the Best Practices Task Force Report assesses what the
Commission can do operationally to facilitate the development and implementation of best
equal employment opportunity policies, programs, and practices. A Task Force committee was
assigned to address this area.
a. EEOC Education, Technical Assistance, and Outreach
This part of the Task Force report begins with the history
of the Commission's education, technical assistance, and outreach programs designed to
inform stakeholders about the statutes and changes in the law. It illustrates the
Commission's longstanding and continuing commitment to education, technical assistance,
and outreach. From the nationwide voluntary action program begun by the agency in 1966, to
the Office of Technical Assistance, created in 1967 and which grew into a twenty-one
person office by 1970, to the 1972 creation of the Office of Voluntary Programs that
continued operations through the 1970s, the Commission constantly maintained a dual focus
with law enforcement on the one hand, and education, outreach, and technical assistance
efforts on the other.
Toward the end of the 1970s, the Commission's primary
emphasis was on the reduction of its charge backlog. As a consequence, Commission
technical assistance and education programs were de-emphasized, with resources being
redirected to law enforcement programs and activities. In 1982, Chairman Clarence Thomas,
reaffirming the need for active voluntary assistance to complement EEOC's enforcement
efforts, required renewed managerial attention to education and outreach activities. Other
such efforts initiated during this time were the Office of Special Projects (established
to conduct special analyses and make recommendations of operational changes to increase
the agency's effectiveness), the Office of Voluntary Assistance (which was designed to
provide education and assistance to small employers, unions and individuals), and the
Expanded Presence Program (designed to increase the accessibility of EEOC staff to
With the passage of the Gramm-Rudman Act, the EEOC was
required to reevaluate its spending on voluntary assistance and education programs. Early
in FY 1986, the agency concluded that it could not fully renew its budget allotments for
these programs, and funding was steadily squeezed off thereafter. By 1990, our technical
assistance activities were largely confined to participation as invited speakers in
workshops, seminars, and conferences sponsored by other groups and organizations.
President George Bush signed the Americans with
Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, and on July 26, 1992, the Commission began enforcing
Title I of the ADA. In that two-year period, the Commission developed regulations and
policy guidance, developed broad technical assistance programs, developed training
programs for EEOC staff, as well as plans for providing training to the disability
community and employers. These and subsequent ADA implementation activities were performed
by the Office of Legal Counsel.
The current EEOC education, technical assistance, and
outreach program consists of Commission activities in three areas: (1) national and local
enforcement plans [NEP & LEP] (which pledge the Commission to education, outreach, and
voluntary resolution as tools to eliminate workplace discrimination); (2) the revolving
fund (which produces the agency's fee-paid technical assistance program seminars [TAPS]
across the country); and (3) participation of headquarters and field office personnel in
thousands of nationwide conferences, meetings, and seminars annually.
In its discussions with field office staffs and external
stakeholders, the Task Force received many comments and suggestions about what EEOC can do
to improve both its fee paid and no-fee education and technical assistance programs in
advancing the development of best practices, and the role of agency enforcement activities
and general operations in helping employers develop best practices. All of these comments
and suggestions were considered by the Task Force and many of them have merit. However, in
times when Commission resources are limited and demands placed upon those resources are
heavy, policy choices placing new stress on those resources are difficult to make. Thus,
suggestions entailing large new cost outlays were generally not adopted. Moreover, some of
the comments did not appear to be relevant to Task Force issues, or bore significant
implications beyond the scope of this report. The Task Force has sought to address the
concerns of all stakeholders, and these concerns played a key role in the formulation of
The Task Force's recommendations fall into four primary
areas. First, the Task Force recommends that the Commission be more involved in providing
employers assistance in implementing best practices. This includes providing technical
assistance on-site, where possible, collecting best practices information and models,
establishing industry liaison groups, providing more materials, and providing easier and
more frequent access to Commission programs. Second, the Task Force recommends that the
Commission engage in various communications initiatives. This includes encouraging
employers to give their evaluations of Commission activities in education, technical
assistance, and outreach, so that the Commission can be even more responsive to employer
needs. Third, the Task Force recommends certain coordination initiatives in order to
facilitate greater effectiveness and efficiency in the planning and delivery of the
Commission's programs. Fourth, the Task Force has made recommendations concerning the use
of its settlement agreements and/or consent decrees. A summary of the Task Force's
recommendations is as follows:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This report should be thought of, not as a blueprint, but
more as an idea bank that can be drawn upon broadly by one and all. The Task Force
report's findings and recommendations are not meant to require employers to adopt certain
practices or policies to comply with any of the laws enforced by EEOC.