As I talked in yesterday’s post, I moderated a community forum on Religion and the Workplace at my firm. We had a terrific crowd and I’m grateful to all the speakers for making time out of their busy days to come.
But Cheryl Sharp, Deputy Director of the CHRO, emphasized one point several times that I think is important for employers to understand.
Too often, she said, employers have policies that are not followed by their managers and employees. Indeed, she said that when she gives training to companies, she is always surprised that employees tell her that they probably know only 10 percent of what the employee manual says!
While that’s an unscientific study of handbooks, Ms. Sharp’s point is that employers cannot simply have policies that sit on a shelf (or in a computer) anymore. Training your employees and educating them on what your policies say is critical.
Because Ms. Sharp said that inconsistency of application of a neutral employer policy can lead to discrimination. And whether you or not you agree with that hypothesis is beside the point. The CHRO — the agency charged with investigating complaints of discrimination — is going to make that same conclusion.
If, for example, you have a policy that you are not to ask job applicants about accommodations until after a job offer is made — and your supervisor asks an applicant in a wheelchair that question before the offer is made — you’re going to have some explaining to do with the agency.
So, what’s the takeaway for employers?
Review your policies and make sure that the policy tracks the practice of your workplace. If it does, make sure to continue to provide training and education to your employees on those policies every year or two. If it doesn’t, then you either need to modify your policy or your practice.