What is a Civil Rights Audit?

The United States is a diverse country. Its citizens come from all over the world and speak many different languages. When it comes to age, gender, race, income level, and religion there are a lot of differences in this country. But when you look at civil rights there is no diversity. There are only two types of people: those who have them and those who don’t.

In order to make sure that everyone has equal access to education or employment for example we need to constantly be making sure that our policies promote equality in these areas across the board by not discriminating against any particular group of people based on their identity or background. This is what a Civil Rights Audit does – it looks at how well an organization’s practices align with its values to ensure that everyone involved in the hiring process is treated equally.

A Civil Rights Audit should not be confused with a similar concept called a Civil Rights Review. The key difference between the two is that a civil rights review looks at policies and procedures while a civil rights audit looks at actual practices. In other words, a civil rights review helps you to write the policies that you want to have in place while a civil rights audit ensures that these policies are being followed.

Civil Rights Audits were created by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws and promoting equal opportunity in the workplace. They recognize that discrimination charges are common but they believe that employers are best suited to prevent discrimination at their own workplaces.

A Civil Rights Audit is a comprehensive review of an employer’s practices related to issues such as recruitment, hiring, promotions, discipline, benefits and wages. These internal audits are very useful because they help employers identify areas where changes need to be made so that all applicants have equal access to employment opportunities. In addition, a successful Audit can help protect your company from discrimination lawsuits since it shows potential employees that you value diversity and are making efforts to hire people from diverse backgrounds.

What do these audits examine?

Civil Rights Audits look at a number of different areas including:

  • Company Policies – Each job application should include a policy statement regarding Equal Employment Opportunity and should emphasize that no employees or job applicants will be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Counseling – All managers must complete Equal Employment Opportunity training to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities related to EEO regulations.
  • Recruitment Sources – Your recruiting strategy should include a review of your recruitment efforts to ensure that you are involving all types of people in the hiring process. Are you using college job fairs? Are you working closely with local colleges or community organizations to foster diversity?
  • Applicant Pool – You should have an applicant pool that accurately reflects the demographics of your community. An audit will show you how closely your recruiting sources match the demographics of the community. For example, if most of your applicants are coming from jobs where they worked with someone in your company or were referred by an employee at another company, this indicates that you may not be marketing to a diverse group of people who might also have valuable skills to offer. If you’re having problems marketing to a diverse group, this might require more creative and innovative ways of recruiting such as using social media outlets or reaching out to community organizations that can help you spread the word about your open positions.
  • Employee Pool – An audit will show how well your employees reflect the diversity in the neighborhood where you do business. For example, if you’re an engineering firm, your employee pool should reflect the general makeup of the population – around 50% men and 50% women. An audit will show whether or not this is true so that you can take steps to improve if needed.
  • Promotions – Is there a lack of minorities in senior-level positions? This might indicate a problem. An audit will show you if this is the case and it can help guide your strategies for providing training and/or mentoring programs that focus on development.
  • Benefits – What benefits are offered to employees? How does this compare to other local businesses? Is there a disparity between women and men when it comes to benefit packages?
  • Employee Discipline and Terminations – Do you treat women and minorities differently when it comes to discipline or termination? An audit will show you.

If you find that your company needs to make changes, an audit can be very useful in taking these steps because the process of auditing your practices becomes part of the solution.

Today’s businesses are responsible for making sure that they are compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity Laws because it prevents lawsuits from employees and protects a company in terms of liability. An Equal Employment Opportunity Audit (also known as a Civil Rights Audit) can help companies in this process and show them how they stand with the law.

What does the law require for civil rights audits?

While the law requires audits for many things, such as schools, hospitals and government facilities, most people probably don’t know that it is also required by law for employers.

Federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require you to complete a civil rights/equal opportunity audit if:

• You have an organization that employs 15 or more employees

• Your organization has 25 or more employees if the employees are engaged in a US interstate commerce

If you do not meet these requirements, then you must complete an employment audit that evaluates all of your hiring and promotion practices.

What is involved in a CR audit?

When it comes to conducting a civil rights/equal opportunity audit, there are a variety of methods that can be used. Most audits find four to five areas in need of improvement, but the number varies from audit to audit. These include examining hiring policies, performance management and disciplinary procedures, compensation/wage practices and promotion/transfer practices.

The results of an effective civil rights/equal opportunity audit will not only document areas where your organization does not meet its legal obligations, but it will also identify opportunities for growth and benefits you might not have otherwise considered.

What is often found in a Civil Rights audit?

The following are some of the most common findings in audits. However, not every area will apply to each organization, so no audit should ever be considered complete without specifically assessing your company’s policies, practices and demographics.

Issues that are common in civil rights/equal opportunity audits:

• Employees feel excluded from discussions

• Employees don’t feel comfortable raising concerns

• Women are underrepresented in high-level positions

• There is a lack of diversity among those hired for high-level or highly visible jobs

• The organization doesn’t have a strategy for recruiting and retaining women and minorities

What are the benefits of conducting a Civil Rights audit?

The benefits of completing a civil rights audit include:

• Being proactive about compliance

• Establishing a benchmark to measure your current status against other times in the future

• Improving your organization’s employment activities through creating new policies or making improvements to existing ones

• Saving money by catching and correcting legal violations early on

• Enhancing your company’s reputation through transparency and accountability

Who should conduct a civil rights audit?

Organizations generally hire either an outside consultant or engage the services of an attorney, who often has experience providing training and guidance on federal employment laws. While many attorneys are willing to conduct audits, consultants are often more affordable. It is important to understand that not all attorneys are experts in employment law, so check your attorney’s credentials before hiring them.

Conversely, the best civil rights-trained consultants are also well versed in federal laws and experienced at providing training and guidance on strategies for success. They will conduct audits by answering the following questions:

• Are the policies, practices and procedures compliant?

• What areas of improvement should be addressed?

• How will you measure results?

Employers are required to preserve all personnel records pertaining to an audit for at least three years. It is important that your organization choose someone who can follow through with all of the documentation.

While you may feel very comfortable with your company’s internal resources, it is important to consider hiring a consultant or attorney who has an expertise in civil rights audits. They can help identify areas where your organization may be at risk and provide guidance on how to make improvements across the board. An audit is often time-sensitive, so engaging an expert who can help identify, assess and implement changes quickly is always best.

What should your company do after the audit?

After completing an audit, organizations must continue to educate managers on issues of equality and foster an environment for change. It is possible that the company may have made significant progress in other areas but needs help when it comes to rights, which should be addressed through updated policies, procedures and practices. Finally, regular audits are essential because each new hire or promotion within the organization can have an impact on your company’s civil rights compliance.

What are the benefits of a Civil Rights audit for employees?

The benefits for employees of the Civil Rights audit include diversity and inclusion training to elevate employees’ awareness of civil rights issues. Furthermore, organizations become more aware of their own strengths and opportunities that exist for making improvements in the workplace.

What are the goals of a Civil Rights audit?

The goals of doing a civil rights audit include:

  • improving organizational culture;
  • identifying areas for improvement;
  • encouraging others within the organization to take action; and
  • fostering a culture of learning.

What are the steps involved in conducting a civil rights audit?

The means by which you can collect this data includes interviewing employees, conducting surveys, and observing employee behaviors. The steps that you can take to conduct an internal research include collecting data; analyzing the data; and identifying indicators.

Is a Civil Rights audit part of an ESG audit?

While the two have similarities, an ESG audit is different from a civil rights audit. However, they do share the goals of improving organizational culture and identifying areas for improvement. But the main differences are that ESG audits focus on Equal Employment Opportunity issues, while civil rights audits are focused on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Civil Rights Audits Versus Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Audits

DEI doesn’t just look at legal issues like discrimination against employees because of their race or gender, it also looks at how well members of different races or genders are represented within the organization. An organization that wants to achieve DEI will have a strategic plan for improving representation across all job roles and levels of management.

A Civil Rights audit is concerned with compliance with existing rules regarding discrimination only. Of course, most companies don’t engage in discriminatory hiring practices because it’s against the law, so there isn’t much of a point for conducting a Civil Rights audit.

When to Perform an Audit

There are two things that should provide some guidance as to when you might want to conduct either DEI or Civil Rights audits. The first is if your company has already received negative publicity related to problems with discrimination. For example, a bank might have been the public focus of a case where they were accused of not hiring enough minorities. Perhaps another company has had issues related to failing to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. In either of these cases, it would be appropriate to conduct an audit so that you can ensure your organization is taking the necessary steps to avoid the same problems.

The second way you might want to consider conducting an audit is if your organization wants to initiate diversity initiatives or make changes to improve its DEI results. When this desire is present, performing both DEI and Civil Rights audits will be important for ensuring that all aspects of the business are covered. Conducting just one or the other will not provide an accurate picture of how your organization is doing.

In summary on civil and human rights

In conclusion, because Civil Rights have deep legal implications, it is recommended that an audit should be conducted by a trained consultant or attorney. Their expertise in civil rights issues and familiarity with federal employment laws will be invaluable. Also keep in mind that the hiring decision will affect the success of your program.

Audits may take time to implement, so an expert should be able to follow through with the documentation and provide details on any areas in need of improvement or violations. On completion of the audit, your company should continue educating managers and fostering a productive environment for change.

People’s rights and a lack of civility have been in news cycles for decades, but especially since President Trump left office. Suddenly the news cycles were filled with words like racial justice, horrific killings, hate speech, voter suppression, systemic racism, free expression, nation’s legacy, voting rights and a barrage of hateful content. This has divided the world from each other and driven wedges between family, friends and countries. In order to right this ship, meaningful civil rights audits provide deep analysis for addressing problems that according to the Wall Street Journal, are a critical part of preventing the spread of misinformation in more companies. If every news cycle has deeply troubling stories involving civil rights groups, voter suppression and potentially hateful content on every social network, then companies owe it their stakeholders to engage an independent civil rights audit to address the real world consequences of these stories. But what we need are powerful tools to reverse the damage. Employing civil rights expertise could be such a powerful tool to create a better company and avoid looking like you are merely paying lip service to the civil rights community. We have seen enough of the social harms that come with the spread of misinformation. We have also seen a lack of corporate accountability or scrutiny of the Ford Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg of the social media giant Facebook and leaders of other social media platforms, appearing before congress. While there is no free pass for most tech giant companies, it remains to be seen what the consequences are. And that is where a civil rights audit can provide assurance to all of your stakeholders.