Earlier this month, the EEOC’s New York District Office issued a Determination [pdf] finding probable cause to believe that New York City violated Title VII and the Equal Pay Act through a “pattern of wage suppression and subjective promotion based on … sex, race, and national origin.” The conciliation agreement the agency proposed seeks compensation in excess of more than $246 million. That eye-popping number should catch the attention of every employer.
While settlement proposals are merely numbers on a piece of paper, and no one expects NYC to roll over and play dead, this story holds an important lesson for employers. The EEOC, which is an agency of limited financial resources, is going to go after that which will provide the most bang for its buck. If you are a large employer, you have a large target on your back, and the EEOC is taking aim. Yet, even small employers should show concern, because while the size of the target is might be proportionate to the size of the employer, even a small hit can prove devastating for a small employer. If you are not currently under investigation (and most of your aren’t), consider yourself as living on borrowed time. Take advantage of it. Use this time to audit all of your HR and employer practices (hiring, firing, pay, policies, etc.) to ensure compliance with all employment laws, including Title VII. It might sound trite, but knowledge really is power. Better to find out that you are out of compliance before an agency knocks on your door than after.