PASADENA, Calif. -- Labor attorney Robert Wenzel shared a list of 2008 tips and trends for human resources professionals attending the HRD Network's Annual Conference. Wenzel is a partner in the Cerritos, Calif. Office of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, and specializes in management defense for personnel and labor relations matters.
The attorney began by reviewing the differences between disparate intent, which is defined as intentional discrimination against a protected class, and disparate impact, in which a policy that which is neutral at face value has a tendency to adversely affect a protected class.
Wenzel said regulators and courts are taking a greater interest in disparate impact cases than in years past, noting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission changed reporting methods in 2007 -- the first time in almost 40 years -- in an effort to more accurately report hiring and advancement practices as they are applied to protected classes.
"There is a belief that there is some sort of screening mechanism that keeps people from moving up, and they want to find out about it," Wenzel said.
The topic stirred up discussion regarding the use of credit checks in hiring credit union employees, and how the practice could possibly be considered disparate impact, because some protected classes also tend to have lower credit scores. If challenged on the practice, Wenzel said management must prove that a credit check is an accurate predictor of success each and every time it's used to screen job candidates.
One attendee suggested that although fewer employees have access to cash these days, thanks to the continued development and popularity of electronic services, credit and background checks are still important, because data security breaches are just as great a threat as cash theft or loan fraud.
Wenzel replied that credit unions certainly have a right to safeguard their shops from theft; but, employers must now prove all screening processes are a valid predictor of success in each individual job category, in the event they receive an EEOC charge.
Leave and disability requirements are another hot topic for 2008, he said. Wenzel also discussed wage and hour class litigation, bonus compensation issues, required harassment training, and how to manage four distinct generations in the workplace. He left attendees with a step-by-step plan for conducting successful employee investigations.