Disparate Impact: Reducing Innovation in the Workplace? 5-17-2016
Summary: The slogan "Personnel is policy" reflects the principle that hiring the right people is one of the most important things that employers do. An employer with an innovative approach to bringing on board the best people has a critical edge over her competition. But the rise of interpretations of federal employment law that basically give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") veto power over nearly any employment decision means that many creative ideas about hiring will be stillborn. Notably, the EEOC interprets federal civil rights law not just to prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, and age, but also on practices that have a "disparate impact" on members of such groups even if the practice is not actually discriminatory. Because virtually any job qualification has a disparate impact on members of some such group, this interpretation confers extraordinary powers on the EEOC. Disparate impact is widely believed to have led many employers to abandon paper and pencil tests of cognitive ability. More recently, employers have been discouraged from using the Internet to recruit because racial minorities were thought to lack access to the internet relative to members of other racial and ethnic groups. Further, the EEOC also has put pressure on employers to abandon the use of credit and criminal background checks because of their alleged disparate impact on racial minorities. This panel will discuss how the metastasis of disparate impact has strangled innovative hiring strategies in these areas as well as others and other perverse consequences of disparate impact's growth. -- This panel was presented during the Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference on May 17, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. -- Featuring: Hon. Gail Heriot, United States Commission on Civil Rights, and Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law; Mr. James Scanlan, Attorney at Law; and Mr. James Sharf, Sharf & Associates. Moderator: Mr. John Irving, Of Counsel, Kirkland & Ellis.