Dealing with Adverse Impact and Compensation Disparities in Affirmative Action Plans

By: Mike Lehr, Human Resources Consultant

When clients see adverse impacts in their Affirmative Action Plans (AAP), it is not unusual for them to say, “So Mike, does this mean I have to hire more females and minorities?” This is the wrong question. It should be, “How do we look into this more?”

AAPs are similar to insurance policies. They help us identify risk in our recruiting, hiring, compensation, promotion, and termination policies and practices. If the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Civil Rights Commission investigate a complaint, they will very likely want to see our AAPs. As with insurance, good plans afford us more protection than bad ones do.

When adverse impacts arise with clients, I automatically look at two areas first:

1. Employment practices and activities
2. The plan’s statistics

Employment Practices and Activities
I review employment practices and activities in affected areas first for two reasons. First, too often what should happen differs from what actually happens. There might not be anything wrong with the policy or practice. It just isn’t being followed well. Why change it? This often happens with policies regarding the acceptance of applications and completion of self-identification disclosures.

The second reason why I look at employment practices and activities first is that they give me ideas on where better recordkeeping might help produce better statistics. This makes revisiting the statistics easier and more directed.

This happens often when we dive into the specifics of a job. Since community bankers often wear many hats, weighting the job against several census codes rather than just one is better. Also, since many community banks serve rural communities, the census sample for a job might be too small to be representative. A next best code can come into play then.

Plan Statistics
When it comes to the plan’s statistics, too often they are based on what is easy to track and figure. This shows up most in the job groups used to categorize jobs, the availability of candidates for openings (promoting from within versus hiring from outside), and the census codes used to compare banks’ jobs with the outside world.

I’m not a fan of redoing calculations after the results. I am a fan of saying, “In order to understand this and our options better, how can we improve our data collection for next year?” It’s similar to analyzing a credit. If there are questionable items, we ask for more information.

As an example, I often recommend dividing up the Professional job group (2) into Lending Professionals (2.1) and Administrative Professionals (2.2). Lending and credit jobs can be in the first group, and accounting, finance, marketing, trust, and other non-lending related jobs can be in the second.

Since lending is a specialized skill to banking and is often sales-related, it frequently creates adverse impacts and compensation disparities for the Professional job group. This can happen if census data is small but not enough so to justify alternative census codes.

Granted, the adverse impact might not disappear. Knowing it’s focused on lending or administrative professionals does help though. Rather than carefully monitoring practices in the entire Professional Job Group, we might only need to focus on a sub-set of it.

Additionally, for the same reasons, I often recommend splitting up the Administrative Support Group (5.0) into three groups such as Ancillary (or Executive) Administrative Support (5.1), Operational Support (5.2), and Retail Administrative Support (5.3).

Often, 75 percent of the jobs in Retail Administrative Support are tellers. They are introductory jobs often filled from outside. More promotions-from-within occur with the other administrative support groups. This pattern affects availability and compensation calculations.

Compensation
From a statistical perspective, I also focus on compensation because it’s grayer than clients often think it is. Even The Code of Federal Regulations (see § 1620.13 through § 1620.19) admits that what is equal pay for equal work “cannot be precisely defined.”

Furthermore, “‘equal’ does not mean ‘identical.’” It is defined by the job’s requirements in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility, not the qualifications of the person unless they specifically impact those requirements. That means two jobs with different titles could be “equal.” That means having better qualifications does not matter unless those qualifications are important to the job.

That is why it helps to begin compensation analyses with job groups, not jobs with the same title. The latter could easily give a false sense of security. Starting at the global level and working down forces us to really look at what makes jobs unequal. AAPs with workable job groups and census codes can help prioritize the jobs and the job descriptions we need to rework or revisit with legal counsel.

Conclusion
Returning to the original question, AAPs have many ways for us to look into adverse impacts and compensation disparities more. A good plan not only provides us good insurance against adverse actions, it guides and prioritizes us. This saves our time and money.

For more information on Affirmative Action Plans, contact Mike Lehr at 1.800.525.9775 or click here to send an email.