Why Would an Applicant File an EEOC Complaint Against Your Business?

The EEOC exists to enforce employment law that guarantees everyone the opportunity to seek a job without the influence of discrimination. If a former applicant has filed a complaint against your business, what could be the cause? Knowing what to avoid can help protect you from a lengthy investigation. Learn more now.

No employer wants to face potential action against them by the government for violating laws. There can be immense damage to a company that runs afoul of regulations, and there are many to consider—but have you ever considered that it is possible to violate the law before someone even starts working for your company?

Complying with environmental regulations, financial rules, and other process-related restrictions is one thing, but employment law can prove challenging to unravel. While many employers focus on avoiding allegations of labor law violations or discrimination in the workplace after hiring, it is just as important to consider avoiding problems before and during hiring.

For example, employers often worry about the potential of facing private lawsuits over violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act committed while using background checks. However, another concern to consider is complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that you discriminated against an individual during the hiring process. 

The EEOC has been empowered to investigate such complaints, and the process can be lengthy and time-consuming, often stretching out for months. If your business has received a notice from the EEOC of a complaint against your business, what could have caused the problem? How can companies strive to avoid these problems?

Actions and Mistakes That Can Trigger EEOC Complaints

Asking the wrong question at the wrong time can cause a long-term headache for your business.

Most often, the EEOC investigates complaints that involve a clear application of discriminatory behavior. At times, this may be a procedural problem with your hiring workflow; at other times, it may be the result of those conducting the interview or the information you sought. The most common sources of complaints include these actions:

  • Asking an applicant about private medical information. You can only inquire into medical facts after providing a job offer to an applicant, and you cannot require the disclosure of information related to genetics or family history. Tread very carefully when considering medical information. Remember—you cannot disqualify an applicant for pregnancy.
  • Disqualifying applicants based on their status in a protected class. A typical example is denying an applicant because of their race or nation of origin. Still, you can also face complaints for discriminatory questions or decisions based on an individual's age, religion, or sex.
  • Using (and/or disclosing) a policy that issues a blanket ban on hiring individuals with particular convictions.

In general, misuse of background checks is a matter for the Fair Trade Commission. An EEOC complaint is the appropriate remedy when an applicant perceives that they have been discriminated against because of their status in a protected class. It is therefore vital that those carrying out hiring operations understand what they can and cannot ask about—and to ensure that applicants are consistently evaluated on their merits first and foremost.

Protecting Your Business With Better Policies and Procedures

Winding through the process of resolving an EEOC complaint can be a frustrating experience that takes time and attention away from important work. The simplest solution? Avoid the problem altogether by developing stronger policies and ensuring everyone involved in the hiring process has the proper training and understanding necessary to avoid potentially discriminatory actions. From the appropriate timing of background checks to choosing your words with care, you can take many proactive steps to prevent complaints from job applicants.

Employment law, EEOC regulations, and much of the "legalese" surrounding the hiring process can be a source of confusion for even established businesses. Explore more topics in depth through our knowledge base and discover how to hire safely, effectively, and entirely within the boundaries of the law.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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