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EEOC claims and Workers' Compensation

Recent EEOC stats show spikes in discrimination charges, with age discrimination charges increasing 29% and retaliation charges up by 23%. While difficult to quantify, complaints linked to Workers' Compensation are included in the alleged violations by employers. An injured worker may bring a charge of retaliation and age discrimination could be alleged as well. Even if the charges are without merit, the cost of defending them can be staggering.

Although for years a spike in age discrimination claims was predicted due to the graying of the workforce, it did not materialize until 2008. Speculation is that more baby boomers are anxious about their employment prospects as the ranks of older workers delaying retirement swell, with 60% postponing retirement according to a CareerBuilder survey.

Some steps employers can take to prevent being held liable in discrimination lawsuits are:
  • Written policies prohibiting employers from engaging in discriminatory acts.
  • Clearly defining what acts are against company policy.
  • Provide training for employees about the conduct that constitutes discrimination and the proper complaint procedure.
  • Don't ignore demand letters from attorneys. Non-response or a negative-toned letter, further angers the injured worker, minimizing the opportunity for negotiation before an EEOC claim is filed.
  • When a claim is filed, guard against retaliation. Treat the injured worker like everyone else - documenting performance issues in the same manner as everyone else, but not singling out the injured worker.
  • Investigate quickly and thoroughly. Collect all data - personnel files, pay records, disciplinary records, general HR files. Interview all relevant parties and have then initial the report. If employees refuse, make a note of it. People forget quickly and are influenced by others, so this should be done immediately. Take prompt and effective remedial action if warranted.
  • Cooperate with the EEOC and respond fully to their charges.