EEOC reports record number of discrimination filings for FY 2011

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released fiscal year 2011 statistics, compiled in its annual Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The EEOC handled a record 99,947 discrimination charges in fiscal year 2011 (ending September 30) -- the highest number in the agency's 46-year history. The EEOC also recovered more than $364.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination -- again, the highest level in the agency's history. The fiscal year ended with 78,136 pending charges, a 10 percent decrease from FY 2010 (and the first such reduction since 2002).

Race charges were the most common claims filed in 2011 (36%), followed by sex (29%), disability (25%) and then age (23%). National origin, religion and Equal Pay Act claims all registered less than 5% of all charges filed.

“I am proud of the work of our employees and believe this demonstrates what can be achieved when we are given resources to enforce the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.

The major takeaway in all this? Be especially diligent about training your employees and managers on proper, non-discriminatory behavior and document, document, document. The bad economy may be driving the bump in discriminatory charges. And unless the economy picks up in 2012, this trend may continue.

Do you appreciate your employees? 10 ways to show it!

Today's post comes from G.Neil's HR Library. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sitting down to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be complete without giving thanks for all the good fortune and happiness of the past year. High on the list are the friends and family who bring us joy and enrich our lives.

Are you extending this same attitude of gratitude to the workplace? It’s been said that “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” This is as true in the workplace as it is in our personal lives. Unless you’re focusing on the things your employees are doing right and rewarding them in immediate, tangible ways, your gratitude is as effective as a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are 10 easy ways to express your appreciation and show employees that you value what they bring to the workplace:

1) Recognize birthdays and anniversaries. Most employees would be pleasantly surprised to receive a greeting card on their birthday or work anniversary. Especially if it’s signed by senior management and includes a personal message, it’s a small gesture with big impact.

2) Say thank you. “Thank you” – two small words with tremendous power. Whether you express it in a handwritten note, pull someone aside in the hallway or call out an accomplishment in a packed meeting, managers and supervisors should look for every possible opportunity to say thank you.

3) Point out performance. No achievement is too small, especially when it propels a bigger project or contributes to the overall success of your business. Give a pair of movie tickets to someone who reached her sales goal or a restaurant gift certificate to an employee who spearheaded a new initiative.

4) Establish an employee recognition program. If you haven’t done so already, kick off an employee-of-the-month program or wall of fame in 2012. These programs are ideal for demonstrating your appreciation on a consistent basis, while acting as an incentive for other staff members to step up their game.

5) Offer free food. It’s amazing what bagels in the morning or a sandwich platter at lunchtime can do to boost employee morale. In addition to enhancing everyday work routines with tasty fare, look for bigger ways to reward through food, like a luncheon for the department with the highest quarterly revenue.
6) Show respect. While this seems obvious, your demeanor with your employees makes a world of difference. No matter how stressed you are, you shouldn’t swear, lose your temper or ignore your employees. The little courtesies add up, so say please and thank you, keep your office door open, watch your body language and give your full, undivided attention when employees come to you with issues.

7) Touch base with employees. Hold meetings with individual employees or groups of employees several times throughout the year to address any lingering questions or concerns. Be open to their feedback and reactions to new company policies or developments, and update them on the steps you’ve taken to solve problems discussed in former meetings.

8) Let them park it. Reserve your best parking spots for employees who’ve gone above and beyond for the company. A prime parking space could be one of the rewards for the winner of your employee-of-the-month program.

9) Flex their hours. Flex time is a perk that most employees appreciate above all others. Explore ways to let employees telecommute, work a compressed workweek or leave early one day a week (assuming they’re meeting their obligations otherwise). Loosening the reins on a rigid work structure is a fantastic way to reward employees who have already earned your trust.

10) Conduct an employee satisfaction survey. Perhaps you don’t know what’s making your workers unhappy – or what they really want. An employee survey is a great way to capture their opinions in a safe, non-threatening manner. Break the survey into sections (such as “working conditions” and “company culture”), set up the survey in a format you can easily administer and discuss the results (and takeaways) among company management.

Holiday cards and employee morale: Don't underestimate the connection!

Carol and Megan are both hard-working, dedicated employees. And like many employees working for companies weathering the economic downturn, they’ve endured their fair share of challenges this past year: fewer resources, longer hours, added responsibilities, more stress.

Fast forward to the holiday season. One afternoon in early December, Carol picks up her mail and notices a special mailing from her company. She tears open the crisp, white envelope and pulls out a beautifully illustrated holiday card with a short, handwritten note inside. “How nice,” she thinks to herself and smiles, “that the company cared enough to do this.”

Megan works for a company that didn’t send holiday cards this year. “Times are tough,” the company’s president concluded, "and employees should be thankful they even have jobs. If things turn around next year, we’ll do more to motivate our staff.”

Who do you think feels better about her company right now? Who sees that her extra efforts matter – and that it’s worth enduring a few challenges when your company values its employees?

Don’t let this golden opportunity to reach out and recognize your employees pass you by. Sending company holiday cards and calendars makes sound business sense because they:

=> Demonstrate you value your employees, no matter how tough the conditions. During these economically challenging times, most businesses are running on leaner budgets and watching their every expenditure. For a healthy return on investment, however, holiday cards can’t be beat. A holiday greeting costs just pennies per employee, but yields significant returns through good will, enhanced morale and greater loyalty. It’s the perfect way to show you care about your employees – employees who, incidentally, kept your business thriving in spite of the economic downturn.

=> Stand out in a way that other forms of communication cannot. As a customer, how special do you feel receiving a mass e-mail from a company during the holidays? Or worse, no acknowledgment at all? It’s no different with your employees. A paper card shows a level of effort and attention on your part. More importantly, it gets noticed in the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives. You went out of your way to select the appropriate card, address it properly and even share a handwritten note. That single card is personal, it’s tactile and it rises above the electronic and digital noise of today.

=> Boost morale and lead to greater employee satisfaction down the road. Your employees are working harder than ever, but they will quickly burn out if you don’t take the time to recognize their efforts and thank them. It’s a proven fact that employees are more productive and effective when they feel appreciated, needed and noticed. Don’t make the mistake of hoping your employees know how much you depend on them. Take advantage of this time of gratitude and give a holiday card that sends the message, loud and clear, that your employees matter.

Ready to make a positive impression with your most valuable resource, your employees? Order your holiday cards now (at terrific "early bird” specials), then plan on reaping the rewards that come with wishing your workforce happy holidays and letting them know how important they are.

A great way to honor our vets? Help them get jobs!

Today is Veterans Day, one day a year set aside to honor our military veterans, past and present. With more than 40,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq by year's end, the day takes on even more significance. We're no doubt grateful to our military men and women and all they sacrifice to preserve our nation's freedom.

And how do we express that gratitude? After the parades, the standing ovations and even the free meals at certain restaurants (including Applebee's, Chili's, Outback Steakhouse and Subway), what can we do to thank our veterans for their courageous service?

If you're an employer, the answer may be to provide as many job opportunities to our veterans as you do our civilians. I know this is tricky because the economy is lousy and many businesses have frozen their hiring, but this isn't the case across the board.

In fact, a new CareerBuilder survey found that one in five (20 percent) employers are actively recruiting U.S. veterans over the next 12 months, while 14 percent are recruiting members of the National Guard.

Keep in mind this is different from employers who are legally obligated to reemploy soldiers returning from military leave. As we've discussed in this blog, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that provides certain rights to members of the uniformed services, such as reinstating employees upon completion of service.

When it comes to new hiring this year and into 2012, the areas where employers from the CareerBuilder survey plan to focus their attention are: 

    Information Technology -- 36 percent
    Customer Service -- 28 percent
    Engineering -- 25 percent
    Sales -- 22 percent

“The survey shows that employers recognize the unique value military experience can bring ..." said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America.

Not to say that veterans won't face the same challenges securing a job as everyone else. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among vets who served in the Middle East since 9/11 was 12.1 percent this October, compared to 9 percent for the overall workforce.

“I don’t think it’s overt discrimination," says Chad Storlie, author of “Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career, "but HR departments and hiring managers are being very picky today. He adds: "They want the best person that makes them feel comfortable; that’s why vets have to show everything in their background and how that will help them be successful.”

In addition to figuring out how to translate their military experiences into compelling skills for today's job market, veterans might consider where they live. A study commissioned by financial firm USAA and identified the “Best Places for Military Retirement: Second Careers.” The best town for vets went to Oklahoma City, Okla. After that, it was:

    Norfolk, Va.
    Richmond, Va.
    Austin, Texas
    San Antonio, Texas
    Madison, Wis.
    Philadelphia, Pa.
    Raleigh, N.C.
    Omaha, Neb.
    Manchester, N.H.

Short of packing their bags and moving to a a new town, however, HR experts recommend that vets focus on who they are and what they want to do, aggressively network (especially with ex-military personnel) and when possible, start reaching out to potential employers before they leave the military.

The economy stinks but retailers still need seasonal help

In fact, nearly three in 10 retailers (29 percent) are looking to bump up their seasonal help for the upcoming holidays, according to a nationwide CareerBuilder survey.

On par with seasonal hiring in 2010, companies in other industries expect to hire a similar number of temporary workers. The key areas to be targeted include sales, customer service, shipping and administrative support.

While companies are hiring the same amount of people as last year, they're doling out more pay. More than half of employers (53 percent) indicated they will pay $10 or more per hour for seasonal staff. Approximately 14 percent will pay $16 or more.

If you're one of those companies seeking seasonal help this year, check out this previous post for tips on getting the most out of your temp relationships.

DOL and Facebook -- A partnership job seekers are sure to "like"

According to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, there are approximately 3 million job openings in the U.S., and nearly 14 million unemployed people.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced a partnership with Facebook to help those 14 million job seekers find employment. A new Facebook book, the Social Jobs Partnership, can help connect job seekers with companies that are hiring -- thanks to more than 3,000 one-stop career centers that are represented, as well as online tools such as the DOL's My Skills My future website (which highlights alternative careers for certain skill sets).

With social networks playing such a big role in the job market these days, a partnership like this holds real promise. (A Jobvite survey of 800 HR and recruitment professionals revealed that 64% of employers hired through social networks this year.) As of today, more than 14,800 people have "liked" the new Facebook page.

Secretary Solis shares:

"Linking American job seekers with the resources they need to get back to work is a top priority of the Obama administration and my department.  By leveraging the power of the social Web, this initiative will provide immediate, meaningful and ready-to-use information for job seekers and employers, and a modern platform to better connect them."

Beyond the Social Jobs Partnership page, the DOL also plans to expand the program to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites.

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