Yesterday, I noted that Norwalk Community College had been sanctioned over the summer in a federal district court case for its apparent failure to preserve electronic data. I’ve always believed that these types of compliance issues — if they exist — do not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, companies that have trouble keeping track of their data and their compliance obligations often run into problems in more areas than just this one.
Reading the minutes of the most recent Board meeting of the CHRO confirmed this theory for me. It turns out that Norwalk Community College has had issues with compliance with its affirmative action plans and keeping track of them. According to the minutes, the College allegedly never received notice of a disapproval of its affirmative action plan from a prior year (and thus did not appear to address the deficiencies noted in it). Indeed, when the College submitted its affirmative action plan this year, the CHRO originally recommended disapproving it. Notably, the College achieved (according to the minutes) only 3 out of 16 goals that were set in the plan. The CHRO chair stated that this seemed "low". Ultimately, the CHRO approved the plan noting the College’s "good faith efforts".
The relevant portion of minutes is as follows:
The following individuals were present representing Norwalk Community College: President David Levinson, Human Resources Director Ginny Dellamura and Affirmative Action Officer Natasha Maynard. The plan is being recommended for approval based on compliance with the good faith effort standard. Short-term goal achievement was 3 out of 16 or 19% and total goal achievement was 3 out of 16 or 19%. Promotion goals were not set in the prior plan. The plan was approved in 2002, 2003 and 2004, disapproved in 2005 and approved in 2006.
Commissioner Lobon asked if the plan’s status would not have changed if they were notified of their deficiencies from last year. Staff confirmed that is correct. The original recommendation of disapproval was based on the fact that the College did not address prior deficiencies and CHRO staff subsequently found out that they never were informed of them in the first instance. The Chair commented that the attainment of contract goals is low. Mr. Bingham stated his intent to meet with representatives of the College after the meeting to discuss this issue.
Ultimately, it appears that the College is addressing these issues and it would unfair to single the College out for its oversight here. Documents get lost and people sometimes overlook issues, with no evil intent. But when multiple issues arise regarding compliance (either with state laws or federal discovery requirements), it can be a sign that a company needs to take a step back and make sure that these occurrences aren’t symptomatic of something larger.
For Connecticut employers, always take issues of compliance seriously and take this example to heart. If you find an issue in one area, make sure that the same issues do not arise in other areas.