EEOC Targets Cognitive Bias

Addressing “unconscious bias” is a fundamental element of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s new E-Race Initiative. E-RACE stands for Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment. The EEOC’s new enforcement effort will focus on filing lawsuits challenging “subtle” discrimination and educating employers.

Why focus on race and color now? The most frequently filed claims with the EEOC are allegations of race discrimination, racial harassment, or retaliation arising from opposition to race discrimination. Meanwhile, overt forms of race and color discrimination have resurfaced. In the past decade, some American workforces have witnessed nooses, KKK propaganda, and other racist insignia in the workplace. Racial stereotypes and cultural distortions continue to influence some decisions regarding hiring, discipline, evaluations, and advancement.

Finally, some facially neutral employment criteria are significantly disadvantaging applicants and employees on the basis of race and color. Studies reveal that some employers make selection decisions based on names, arrest and conviction records, employment and personality tests, and credit scores, all of which may disparately impact people of color. Further, an employer’s reliance on new technology in job searches, such as video resumes, could lead to intentional race or color discrimination based on appearance or a disproportionate exclusion of applicants of color who may not have access to broadband-equipped computers or video cameras.

How are prudent employers to prevent “unconscious bias” or “subtle” racism? The best answers come from a non-binding “Guidance” issued on the subject of race and color discrimination by the EEOC in 2006. The EEOC notes that a review of recruitment and employment practices, as well as training, are among the key ways to avoid liability and to enable the assertion of an affirmative defense.

Critical Measures can help employers avoid exposure to unconscious bias claims through our customized workforce assessments and by training managers on the latest science surrounding cognitive bias. We can offer proven tips and best practices for identifying and eliminating systemic bias from your workplace. For further information call David Hunt at 612-746-1375.