On July 25, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that nationwide retailer, Bass Pro Outdoor World, LLC, agreed to pay $10.5 million and provide other relief, including a nationwide agreement addressing hiring and recruitment.
How did we get here?
On September 21, 2011, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Bass Pro alleging that Bass Pro engaged in a pattern or practice of excluding African-American and Hispanic applicants from positions in its retail stores across the county and then retaliated against those who complained. More specifically, the EEOC claimed that qualified African-American and Hispanic applicants were regularly denied retail positions, such as cashier, sales associate, supervisor, manager, team leader, and other positions. As support for its claim of discriminatory intent, the EEOC alleged that Bass Pro managers made overtly racial remarks, acknowledging discriminatory practice, including that hiring African-American or Hispanic workers did not fit the Bass Pro image.
The settlement agreement announced early this week, besides the $10.5 million, focuses on increasing Bass Pro’s diversity, including the appointment of a director of diversity and inclusion, affirmative outreach efforts to increase diversity in the workplace, updated EEO policies and hiring practices, and annual EEO training for management and non-management employees. The EEOC will be working with Bass Pro to implement the agreement.
While there has been no admission of wrongdoing by Bass Pro, there is clearly a perception among some employees and the EEOC that discrimination and retaliation occurred.
What can employers learn from this?
- Follow legally-defensible hiring practices. Hiring can be tricky. Even where the employer has no intention of discriminating, when a particular question or qualification disproportionately impacts a particular protected class, affected applicants may still have a discrimination claim for disparate impact. Sometimes this disparate impact is not known until it’s too late. Before beginning any hiring initiative, stop and think about the interview questions.
- Do revise your policies so the EEOC does not feel it has to. The EEOC’s agreement with Pro Bass focused primarily on updating policies, hiring practices, and trainings. Do not wait for the EEOC to step in. Regular policy, practice, and training updates not only helps to manage legal risk, but also demonstrates to employees that management is invested in maintaining a discrimination, harassment, and retaliation free workplace.
The Eastern Pennsylvania Employment Log (EPELog) is a publication of the KingSpry Employment Law Practice Group. Jeffrey T. Tucker, Esquire, is our editor-in-chief. EPELog is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.