Employers seeking to diversify their workforces need to remember that Title VII’s prohibition on class-based discrimination still applies — even if your motives are pure. The EEOC announced that it settled a lawsuit in which it alleged that a company was discriminating in favor of Hispanic job applicants over black, white, and Asian applicants.
Helados La Tapatia, Inc., a California-based company that produces Mexican-style desserts, will pay $200,000 and “furnish comprehensive injunctive relief” to settle a lawsuit the EEOC filed in the Eastern District of California. The EEOC alleged that the company not only favored Hispanic applicants, it also discouraged non-Hispanic applicants from applying and fired its only non-Hispanic driver a week after his hire.
The company agreed to settle the lawsuit, paying the money but also agreeing to the following injunctive remedies:
- Hire an external equal employment opportunity consultant
- Ensure an open hiring process regardless of race or national origin
- Implement a recruitment plan that includes hiring goals to address past discriminatory practices
- Training for employees and managers
While this case was does not appear to be about a company trying to diversify its workforce, the EEOC’s message applies in those situations as well. The EEOC’s announcement noted that “eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities” is one of the EEOC’s national priorities (one of six). EEOC spokespersons noted that “an employer should never take into account a person’s race or national origin when making employment-based decisions such as hiring” and “it is imperative that employers conduct self-audits to make sure their hiring practices ensure equal opportunity for all applicants.”
Many employers are seeking ways to improve their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Consider diversifying your applicant pool without excluding others. Also consider ways to make your workforce more attractive to diverse candidates so you can retain a diverse workforce. Do not make decisions based on an individual’s race, national origin or sex (or any other protected class).