EEO Legal Solutions provides expert, creative, and cost-effective solutions for managing the burgeoning risk of workplace EEO disputes: Coaching, Training, and Litigation defense. Through Coaching and Training, EEO Legal Solutions strengthens employers’ existing HR and Legal teams to reduce reliance on outside counsel and by extension, expensive “solutions” to more minor EEO problems. Through Lean Litigation, EEO Legal Solutions proves that employers can still afford to fight when they’re right.
The Gathering EEO Storm
The number of EEOC charges has steadily grown, with increasing prevalence of age, disability, retaliation and systemic (“disparate impact”) charges. In-house counsel now report that employment matters, both administrative activity and litigation, rank first in amount and frequency. No doubt, the “face” and frequency of discrimination has changed markedly since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (CRA 1991), ranging from pro se individual charges to full-blown EEOC systemic investigations and class action litigation. Given the variable risk inherent in EEOC charges and EEO litigation, employers must master claim avoidance, evaluation, and resource allocation to avoid defraying expensive external “solutions” to comparatively minor EEO problems.
Cost of Defense
Legal fees for EEO matters have also steadily increased, which makes employers wonder whether they can afford to defend themselves anymore. Our experience since CRA 1991, however, enables EPL carriers, defense firms, and employers to “benchmark” costs for standard EEO services, such as drafting an EEOC position statement, preparing a motion to compel, and participating in a mediation. Further, EEO risk just feels different than other business risks. It’s personal, almost like a “commercial divorce;” after all, no one can stomach the accusation of “racist” or “harasser.” The emotional nature of very EEO case can cloud sound business judgment and make it too easy for unscrupulous defense attorneys to stoke the conflict to boost billable hours.
While the risk and expense of defending EEO matters has sharply climbed over the past 20 years, so has the sophistication, fund of knowledge, and experience of today’s HR professionals on the front lines. The HR field has literally blossomed from its humble beginnings as “payroll clerk” to strategic, C-Level business partner with a growing and necessary skill set in leading organizations. With the proliferation of HR certification levels and advanced HR management degrees, HR personnel have become an existing, important, and untapped internal resource to handle many EEO matters once assigned to outside counsel.
Smarter Risk Management. Based on the EEOC’s own Priority Charge Handling Procedures (PCHP) and careful attention to EEOC enforcement priorities and trends, EEO Legal Solutions uses a simple triage method to help in-house counsel and HR leaders assess the “threat level” each EEO matter poses, and to decide how best strategically to allocate corporate resources, to reduce dependence on outside counsel. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the law firm machinery has convinced employers and Employment Practices Liability (EPL) carriers that they cannot participate effectively in the EEOC’s administrative process without an entourage of employment lawyers, which drives up attorneys’ fees, not value. Through TRIAGING, TRAINING AND COACHING, EEO Legal Solutions guides in-house counsel and HR leaders through the EEOC’s administrative process, enabling them to realize the cost-savings of internal claim management with the safety net that expert EEO advice and experience provide.
Coach, Contain, and Coordinate
Particularly in this regard, EEO Legal Solutions’ approach to EEOC charges differs substantially than the standard defense firm model. For lower risk EEOC charges, which make up the majority of EEOC filings, EEO Legal Solutions COACHES employers on effective position statement preparation (e.g., initial training, strategy review and guidance) and on effective EEOC mediation participation (e.g., initial training, mediation statement coaching, telephone consultation during the mediation), with the ultimate goal of
- Minimizing outside counsel fees
- Providing strategic oversight if the matter escalates beyond the administrative phase; and
- Teaching and strengthening the employer’s internal team to handle the next EEO matter on their own.
For higher risk EEO matters (e.g., multiple parties, systemic charges), EEO Legal Solutions advocates lean litigation, as well as strategic partnerships with experts from other pertinent disciplines, instead of an entourage of partners, associates, paralegals and clerks. Because of our experience, EEO Legal Solutions’ coordination approach streamlines the process and personnel to minimize unnecessary billing. In fact, one legal strategist and one adverse impact/test validation expert, combined with the employer’s internal resources works better and costs less than the traditional legal team handling this type of high risk litigation.