In 2010, an Ohio temp agency paid $650K as part of a Consent Agreement with the EEOC to settle claims that it had used code words in considering and assigning (or declining) job applicants. The code include words such as “chocolate cupcake” for young African American women, “hockey player” for young white males, “figure skater” for white females, “basketball player” for black males, and “small hands” for women in general.
Cameron Langford at Courthouse News reports (here) that a Human Resources Manager just sued her former employer, a Texas temp agency, for what she claims was a wrongful discharge. Specifically, she alleges that she was fired after opposing the use of code words to fill placements. According to the article, the code words used included:
- “blue eyes” and “no sunscreen” = African-American
- “work all day” = Hispanic
- “Heavy lifting” = men (i.e., not women)
- “Energetic” = young (i.e., not old)
It’s no wonder that the EEOC will emphasize addressing discrimination in hiring over the next several years. Assuming that your business isn’t using code words — because you’re not total scumbags — now is the time to review other hiring criteria to make sure they do not disparately impact a particular protected class and are otherwise truly business-related.
Or, you can just wait until the EEOC comes knocking at your door. Your choice.