Commission Recognized for Exemplary Customer Service and Compliance Assistance
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of four federal regulatory agencies, out of nearly 50 reviewed, to receive an "A" rating by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in its latest National Ombudsman's Report to Congress. The report evaluates the relationship of regulatory agencies with small employers based on six specific criteria."The Commission is working cooperatively and collaboratively with the small business community to proactively prevent employment discrimination and promote voluntary compliance," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "We recognize that many small businesses do not have separate human resources and legal staff to guide them through the regulatory process. Therefore, it is critically important to establish open lines of communication, build trust, and provide the necessary training and tools to ensure that small employers do not run afoul of the law."
The main components of EEOC's Small Business Initiative are providing comprehensive technical assistance and customized on-site training; making public information materials and guidance documents available in a user-friendly, plain language format; upgrading the small business section of the agency's web site; encouraging voluntary mediation instead of time consuming and potentially costly investigation and litigation; reaching out at the grassroots levels through small business liaisons in every agency district office; and implementing regional small business outreach plans. Specific accomplishments highlighted in the SBA National Ombudsman's Report include:
Citing a real-life example of how the EEOC's small business program breaks down barriers between employers and the federal government, the report recounts a visit by EEOC's St. Louis District Office to a small employer in Springfield, Missouri, which subsequently sought the agency's assistance in resolving a workplace conflict:
"The manager called the District's Small Business Liaison to seek advice on an issue of harassment occurring between two employees at his place of business. He told the liaison he would not have made this call last year, but because of EEOC's willingness to make a personal visit to his business to advise him about the agency's compliance assistance programs, he felt more comfortable calling a government office for advice. He stated that since EEOC had taken the first step, he was not so nervous about asking for help."
"We are succeeding in changing the enforcement environment," said SBA National Ombudsman Michael L. Barrera, "through dedication to transforming it from a 'gotcha' climate to a 'help you' one one step at a time. Small businesses are our customers. They need to feel comfortable telling their government both the good and the bad."
Information for small employers can be found on the EEOC's web site at the following address: www.eeoc.gov/employers/smallbusinesses.html. The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.