UNIT II STUDY GUIDE
The Legal Environment of Human
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit II
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
2. Estimate the impact of legal provisions on human resource management.
5. Relate different selection criteria and selection methods to organizational considerations.
Ensuring Equal Employment Opportunity and Safety
Selecting Employees Who Fit
Legal Proliferation Boiled Down to Disagreement
When President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 in 1965 and Title 7 Laws were passed in the midst of
a civil rights cultural revolution, he probably never imagined America would be where it is today. We now have
dozens and dozens of complex employment laws governing every aspect of employment (and these are just
federal laws!). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a budget of over $365 million
dollars, hundreds of lawyers, and reviews over 88,000 cases a year against employers. To understand this
phenomenon, we must first realize that the philosophical differences are driving the investigations, cases, and
laws that govern them. In most cases, the average person believes if you are not breaking the law on a given
issue, you are fine. In the employment-law world, it is different.
The main philosophy of the EEOC is that every employment decision should be based on documented merit
and nothing else. The main philosophy of business owners is that every employment decision should be in
the best interest of the company and not break any existing laws. Do you see the disconnect here?
For example, let’s say I (as a manager) do not like the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team, and one
day my junior associate wears a shirt with a Pittsburgh Steelers logo. In response, I terminate his employment
as now I do not want to work with him. What is the problem?
The EEOC would say this is “illegal” as the decision was not made based on documented merit
I, as the manager, say it is NOT illegal as there are no laws making Pittsburgh Steelers supporters a
The 50-year conversation has gone like this between the EEOC and the business community.
While this evolving legal landscape has been a source of massive frustration for human resource
professionals, it has been significantly helpful for victims of discrimination and harassment. Several years
ago, an “expert witness” was brought into a case to review evidence for wrongful discharge (when someone is
terminated for an illegal or improper reason). An EEOC lawyer made a comment to him in passing that she
was just “keeping the American Dream alive.” When he asked her what she meant by her story, she said she
did not like being the big, bad, government pit-bull going after businesses, but she believed strongly that she
BHR 3352, Human Resource Management
GUIDE if you
wanted to live in a nation where no matter who you are, where you came from,UNIT
worked hard enough and performed well enough, you should get a shot at your
Many times in the business world, it pays to be exceptional and different. Standing out from the crowd
allows an employee to be noticed for exceptional performance and can lead to faster and greater
advancement. In some other respects, however, standing out for being a racial or ethnic minority, or
for being a woman, can be incredibly uncomfortable for employees. Learning to celebrate differences
appropriately remains a challenge for many human resource professionals. (Lau & Johnson, 2014,
The EEOC is typically avoided by most companies and loathed by many. However, they exist to make sure
people are being treated fairly by employers, and everyone is given a fair shot at employment. If you do your
job thoughtfully, legally, and ethically, you will not see them very much at all.
In navigating the legal landmines of employment law, you can win, lose, mediate, and settle many cases.
These experiences offer three pieces of advice as you manage a firm.
1. Create a document trail: When you make a decision to hire, fire, layoff, promote, or demote, make
sure you have a clear document trail where any “prudent” person could review the documents and
would likely come to the same conclusion you did.
2. Make a group decision: Nobody knows everything. Before you make employment related decisions,
especially those that you think may be challenged, have two or three other people review the
decision, and make sure they agree with you. A group is less likely to be (and be perceived as)
3. Check your metrics: The 4/5ths rule (in the textbook) is not simply for your annual EEO-1 reporting
form; it is a powerful management metric. Quarterly, review your data to ensure you are hiring, firing,
and paying different types of people (e.g., race, age, disability status) equally. Reviewing trends in
this data often shows you problems to deal with before they ever become court cases (Stewart &
Lau, T., & Johnson, L. (2014). The legal and ethical environment of business. Washington, DC: Flat World
Stewart, G. L., & Brown, K. G. (2015). Human resource management: Linking strategy to practice (3rd
ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
In recent years, many requirement have been put in place that were never an issue earlier in our history. The
United States military has witnessed a landslide of changes over the past couple of decades regarding
gender, religion, and ethnic issues. The following NPR article is an example of these issues:
Sikhs regain right to wear turbans in U.S. Army. (2010, March 24). Retrieved from
BHR 3352, Human Resource Management
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