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Identifying Bias by Leveraging Employee Relations Data

Jun 5, 2017
Deb Muller


Bias and discrimination can arise in many workplace situations: recruitment decisions, job interviews, performance reviews, promotions, hiring and firing decisions. The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees because of race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against someone for complaining about discrimination, filing a discrimination charge or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

A class-action lawsuit allows a large number of people with a common interest to sue as a group. For example, if a company has been discriminating against women in how it handles performance reviews and promotions, a group of female employees could file a class-action lawsuit together.

Fortunately, an employee relations management system can help employers identify and prevent discrimination in the workplace, facilitating fair treatment for all employees. Some employers use specialized employee relations management systems to monitor employee complaints and produce reports. Tracking this data carefully allows corporate leaders to detect any patterns of discrimination or harassment that may be occurring in the workplace.

Seeing the pattern is the first step to solving any problem and preventing it from spreading to other locations or other departments within an organization. For example, are the employee complaints stemming mainly from one supervisor or one office? Is there a particular manager who gives harsher discipline to a certain class of people? After attendance problems, do men get warnings whereas women get fired?

An employee relations management system can help a business become more consistent in how it manages all employee complaints, grievances and discipline cases. That’s good for workforce morale. Showing consistency and fairness is also essential when an employer faces a lawsuit or a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For example, it helps if a company has records that prove that it treated younger workers the same as older workers after the same type of attendance problem.


Winning a court case is good, but even better is using data to identify issues and remedies before any legal action happens. What impact is bias and discrimination currently having on a company’s retention, productivity, employment brand and overall employee relations? It may be impossible to know that information if the data on performance reviews, employee complaints and discrimination cases is not centralized and automated. So what type of data should employers track in order to find patterns?

  • Issue type, location, employee, corporate department and other key case elements
  • Reasons for poor performance reviews
  • Disciplinary actions related to attendance
  • Reasons for firings and suspensions
  • Reasons for denying requests for paid time off, FMLA leave or schedule changes
  • Number of discrimination investigations completed vs. incomplete
  • Number of cases settled, appealed, in arbitration or other legal status
  • Amounts paid to settle grievances and lawsuits
  • Number of cases settled by the company vs. closed by the union

Periodic reports, automatically generated from the employee relations management system, will tell you if the situation is improving or getting worse. Managers can use this information to learn important lessons from past cases, regardless of the outcome of the case. This way, businesses are less likely to repeat past mistakes and more likely to produce positive outcomes for all in the future.

Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.

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