|Dec. 1, 2009 | www.fisherphillips.com|
2009 brought a bold new audit initiative from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will continue into 2010, with widespread investigations into companies' hiring records and I-9 policies. In early July, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued 652 Notices of Inspection to businesses nationwide, including a number of businesses in the hospitality industry. DHS Assistant Secretary for ICE, John Morton stated that "ICE is committed to establishing a meaningful I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law." Morton referred to the auditing of 652 businesses I-9 forms as "only the first step in ICE's long-term strategy to address and deter illegal employment."
On November 2, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it settled a class action lawsuit against Lawry's Restaurants Inc. The EEOC reported that the west coast steakhouse chain agreed to settle the lawsuit, alleging gender discrimination, for more than one million dollars. First filed in March 2006, the lawsuit alleged that for decades that company had intentionally discriminated in its hiring practices. The settlement captured the attention of employers and the media because the class action claimed that the restaurant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against men. In particular, the lawsuit alleged that Lawry's practice of only hiring females for its server positions constituted gender discrimination.
When you fire an employee, there is always the concern that your termination decision will end up under the microscope of litigation – the human resources equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacking. But instead of having that employment dispute resolved in a courtroom, you may want to consider adopting an arbitration policy that substitutes an arbitration hearing for a courtroom trial. When you go to arbitration, your case will generally be tried before a single arbitrator, as opposed to a judge and jury. The arbitrator typically is a highly qualified and experienced attorney or retired judge, who is sworn to apply the law in a fair and impartial manner. While no dispute-resolution system is perfect, arbitration of employment disputes has a lot to recommend it.