“Zero Tolerance” policies go too far according to … the EEOC?

Employers should steer clear of “zero tolerance” policies according to the EEOC. A “zero tolerance” policy provides that any form of proscribed behavior (typically sexual harassment or discrimination) will result in immediate discharge.

Zero tolerance policies can “chill reporting,” cautions EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum (a Democrat appointee). According to Commissioner Feldblum, individuals may choose not to report harassment when they know it might result in the accused’s discharge: “A lot of people don’t want their co-worker to be fired, they just want the conduct to stop.”

It’s not just one EEOC Commissioner who doesn’t like zero-tolerance policies. It’s also the position taken by the EEOC’s 2015 task force on harassment. Its July 2016 report called “zero tolerance” policies “misleading and potentially counterproductive.” Like Commissioner Feldblum, the task force cautioned that such policies “may contribute to employee under-reporting of harassment.”

Instead, the EEOC recommends a policy that reserves to employers the ability to determine the appropriate level of discipline, up to and including, but not necessarily, immediate discharge.

Source: “Beware of ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policies, EEOC Commissioner Warns,” BNA Bloomberg (7/11/18).

1 reply
  1. Gene Ferraro
    Gene Ferraro says:

    Ah, how true. As the founder of what has become the world’s second largest employee hotline provider (Convercent, Inc.), we learned in the late 1990s that employers who had implemented “zero tolerance” policies (then the rage) observed no decline in harassment or other workplace misconduct. The only decline they experienced was the drastic decrease in the reporting of such. How did we (they) know: when employers lifted their zero tolerance policies (after the turn of the century), worker complaints skyrocketed. During the investigation of those complaints, many complainants revealed that they had previously hesitated to file a complaint for fear the employer would terminate the offender. Those same employees overwhelmingly stated they simply desired the unwanted behavior to stop. Hats off to the EEOC.


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