How To Protect Yourself from an EEOC Lawsuit

There is a new ad campaign in Minnesota that is getting plenty of people’s attention.

“It will never happen to me is not an emergency plan.”

Plastered on billboards around the state, it’s an in-your-face reminder that disaster can strike at any time.

If only businesses felt this way about the EEOC they could protect themselves from costly lawsuits and lengthy litigation.

Think it’s an exaggeration?

Here’s a roundup of charges the EEOC has processed in the past four years:

2013 – 93,727 2012 – 99,412 2011 – 99,947 2010 – 99,922

Last year alone, the EEOC collected a record $372.1 million in relief for victims of job discrimination. They accomplished all that even while furloughing workers for 40 hours, freezing hiring and slashing its overall budget. To put it bluntly, if you think the EEOC won’t notice your discriminatory transgressions, you better think twice.

In this webinar provided to the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA), an international organization representing companies who launder things like uniforms, linens, and floor mats, an attorney familiar with EEOC investigations says the federal agency is highly aggressive and gets a good return on investment since it operates under ‘systematic enforcement’ where it looks for cases where a large number of employees are receiving the same type of discriminatory treatment.

New lawsuits and updates on ongoing cases are readily available at

Princeton Healthcare Pays $1.35 Million to Settle Disability Discrimination Suit

Charlotte Security Provider to Pay $155,000 to Settle Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Suit

Rizza Cadillac to Pay $100K to Three Arab Muslim Employees

Bobby Dodd Institute Pays $40,000 to Settle Age Discrimination Suit


The internet though, in all its useless knowledge gloriousness, has actually come through with some top tips on how to protect yourself from an EEOC lawsuit.

Establish clear, standard and written policies on hiring, firing and discipline. Even if you don’t have an HR department, ensure you have written job descriptions with detailed responsibilities and performance and behavior expectations. Communicate how you enforce those requirements. Follow through. If discipline is in order, it must follow the procedures outlined in your written policies and be standardized for every employee.

Don’t retaliate. For goodness sake, don’t make it worse than it already is. You should not fire or take action against someone who has made a complaint. In most cases, they are legally protected under anti-discrimination laws. There are loopholes but you better have an attorney do a thorough review before you even attempt such a thing.

Investigate internal complaints. If an employee comes forward claiming he or she was harassed, take it seriously. Be prompt in your investigation. You should have procedures outlined in your policy manual on how to handle complaints that fall under anti-discrimination laws. Follow them. Ignoring the issue will only add fuel to the fire should a lawsuit eventually be filed. As this blog post from Asset Protection Planners, Inc. states, “When you investigate and document findings you significantly reduce the risk of a terminated employee having a legitimate case.”

WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Without a paper trail you risk he said/she said or I said/you said battles. These are annoying and time wasters. Plus, written records offer you tons of protection.

Have an attorney you trust. Even if you’re a small business without in-house counsel, you should have a trusted lawyer, preferably someone who knows a thing or two about EEO law, at your disposal. And don’t be afraid to use them. The money you’d pay them to review your discipline policies or advise on a complaint is likely peanuts to what you’d pay if you were sued by the EEOC.

Finally, be honest. This legal blog has put together an outstanding list of the ‘Notorious Nine Mistakes By Employers In Dealing With the EEOC. If you read all the way through, you’ll find this cautionary tale: “Don’t try to avoid liability by claiming that a termination for cause was a “job elimination.” My mentor has a great old story about trying an age discrimination case (he was representing the plaintiff) in which the employer claimed “job elimination.” The only problem was, the plaintiff whose job was eliminated was the president of the company. Uh . . . yeah.”

What are some of your tips? Send them to us and it just might inspire another post!

Now it’s time to go pack our emergency preparedness bag. It is hurricane season in Florida after all….

This entry was posted in Background Screening, General, Human Resources and tagged , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
Active ScreeningBarbara S.
Healthcare Industry

"Here at Holland Hospital, we have been extremely pleased with Active Screening. The report results come back quickly, usually within 24 hours or less.  The staff at Active Screening is easy accessible, knowledgeable and responds to our questions promptly."

Active ScreeningLynn C. Staffing Industry

"Benton Mobley has been and remains my Main point of contact at Active Screening from the beginning; so aside from the comfort of dealing with the same person all these years, there is the most important fact of all;  customer satisfaction. Benton knows the business like the back of his hand; and that is what we need in our fast paced industry of staffing. He is the all-time BEST!  MY employer, Leslie, believes in the notion that great service deserves to be rewarded, so we are here for the duration.We get immediate and personalized attention for any and all concerns we need addressed, and in the staffing industry, this is vital."

Active ScreeningCayce R. Education Industry

"My experience working with Active Screening for our background check process has been very positive.  The reports are almost always completed in a very timely fashion. The information reported appears to be very thorough and accurate.  On the rare occasions that we have questions or problems, the customer service team is always very quick to respond and resolve the issue.  Overall, I am very pleased with the service I receive from Active Screening."

Active ScreeningCraig H. Staffing Industry

"Your customer service is excellent.  The turn around time on background checks is quite fast.  Excellent work.  I haven't had a single problem."

Active ScreeningJackie C. Education Industry

"I wanted to thank you and your staff for being so patient and working so diligently with the Human Resources staff during our recent endeavor to process all of our work study students through background screenings.  We have never had to process so many requests within such a short period of time before, but thanks to you and your staff we made it. Again thank you, we made a good choice in selecting Active Screening."

Active ScreeningLindsey W.  Financial Industry

"I wanted to share my appreciation for your wonderful service...switching background screening companies could have been a stressful task, but your company made the transition seamless. Your website was extremely easy to navigate and the turn around time has been great. I appreciate when information is missing or entered incorrectly during ordering, your company notifies me right away to ensure that my error does not hold the reports results, causing us a delay in hiring an individual...Active Screening has been great to us and I would definitely refer them to others."

Active ScreeningTerry S. Property Management

"Working with Active Screening over the last year and half has been a wonderful experience. They deliver fast and informative results at the best price. Their level of professionalism and the speed they respond to our issues is a benefit that any company can value from. I would highly recommend using Active Screening and their amazing team."

Active ScreeningYulesis D.  Staffing Industry

“Interactive Response Technologies (IRT) has more than 2,000 employees at multiple locations across the United States. IRT has been using Active Screening to conduct criminal background checks since 2006. During this time, Active Screening has consistently returned accurate reports, usually with less than 48 hours turnaround. If there are any problems or inconsistencies with the reports, their staff has called to notify us so that we can attempt to rectify the situation. The staff at Active Screening is always courteous and congenial over the phone. In our opinion, Active Screening is outstanding.”

Active ScreeningAndy N. Software Provider

 "Active Screening has helped us screen our applicants in record time for more than two years.... we are very impressed with the professionalism and speed with which their service team responds to our questions. They understand our needs and are a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend them."

Active ScreeningCassie J. Staffing Industry

"The Active Screening team is very informative; they provided a complete consultation on all the services, so I understood what I needed, and saved me hours and hours of my time learning the various services. Their reputation, as being on the cutting edge of employment screening best practices, certainly held true in this instance. The expertise they brought to the table was invaluable to our understanding of our applicants backgrounds. I highly recommend Active Screening to anyone with the task of screening large numbers of applicants and needing reliable customer support."

Active Screening

With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety at my church, I depend on Active Screening to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request. For more than 3 years, Active Screening has been faithful to this task with timely, accurate and reliable service.

Active Screening

We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!

Active Screening

I would highly recommend any association or organization who conducts background checks to use Active Screening. In addition to my involvement with WAHA, I am an officer in a corporation with over 500 employees who provide treatment, mental health, and correctional services for children and adolescents. Our company is mandated by law to do comprehensive background searches and I can say with the utmost sincerity that Active Screening product rivals that of any government or other private sector process.

Active Screening

We have used Active Screening and their solution VERITY to screen all our coaches and volunteers working with youth. The online system gives us an easy and cost-effective solution to collecting forms and payments from our applicants...and we simply login to view the results of who passed or failed. It's so easy....thank you Active Screening.