The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) have launched a joint program to promote hiring and recruiting practices that enhance equal employment opportunities.
The Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity (HIRE) is a multiyear collaborative effort among several stakeholders, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
"The OFCCP and EEOC launched HIRE to redouble our efforts and engage employers, workers and researchers in identifying concrete solutions during this critical juncture," said OFCCP Director Jenny R. Yang. "Through HIRE, we'll identify proactive strategies to support better and more equitable hiring practices."
The EEOC and OFCCP will develop resources such as guidance documents or promising practice resources to promote the adoption of evidence-based research and innovative initiatives that help to embed equity in recruitment and hiring practices.
Business leaders have begun reacting to HIRE.
Leon C. Richardson is the president and CEO at Chemico Group in Southfield, Mich., the largest minority- and veteran-owned chemical management supplier in the nation. Richardson applauded the EEOC and OFCCP for spearheading an initiative designed to level the playing field for minority workers.
"It's imperative that we strengthen our communities, hire people that look like us, put people who look like us on our management teams and grow those individuals, set up businesses in communities that look like ours—wash, rinse and repeat," Richardson said. "You must support the community that supports you."
Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO at the Association of Corporate Counsel in Washington, D.C., praised the effort to help overcome the historical and systemic barriers to employment that underserved communities face.
"A key partner in this effort will be in-house counsel, who play a central role in developing, implementing and updating their organizations' employment policies and practices," she said. "Association of Corporate Counsel is enthused to support HIRE by raising awareness of this important initiative with our members to help advance equal participation and opportunity for everyone."
Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Workers
HIRE comes at a critical time in U.S. history.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected underserved communities, including people of color, women, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals and older workers.
In December 2021, the jobless rate for Black workers ages 16 and older was 7.1 percent, followed by 4.9 percent for Hispanic workers and 3.8 percent for Asian workers, according to the DOL. The jobless rate for white workers was 3.2 percent. Black women saw a higher unemployment rate in late 2021 despite declines among other races and genders.
On Jan. 19, the EEOC hosted the first in a series of roundtable discussions to promote organizational policies and practices advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Key figures within the EEOC, the OFCCP and other organizations outlined strategies for advancing racial equity via recruitment and hiring practices.
"For far too long, Black workers in our communities have been sorely underrepresented in good, family-sustaining jobs," said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director and founder of the UCLA Labor Center's Los Angeles Black Worker Center. "In the era of COVID-19, federal contractors and employers overall must make the shift to value an inclusive, equitable and representative workforce as much as they value finishing a project on time and on budget. That is how we build an equitable recovery."
The COVID-19 pandemic has also greatly affected the Latino community. Sindy Benavides, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, D.C., said 1 in 3 Latino Americans do not have access to broadband Internet. This means they couldn't submit job applications online and their children struggled to receive a virtual education when stay-at-home orders were implemented.
"Latino representation at all levels is critical to ensuring diversity, inclusion and equity at workplaces across the country," Benavides said. "Employers must do their part, and federal agencies should use their convening power to bring diverse interests together to tackle unfair recruitment and hiring practices to ensure Latinos, and all workers, have a fair shot."
Being Supportive Isn't Enough
During the roundtable discussion, Cid Wilson, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility in Washington, D.C., noted that while many companies say they're committed to DE&I, not all of them show it through action.
"Just being supportive is not enough," Wilson said. "There's a difference between supporting it and championing it. Some have been an ally to the movement, but that is not enough to seeing systemic change."
Benavides emphasized that representation at all levels of an organization matters.
"It's not enough to put out a statement on Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month," she said. "We need action. We need to make sure we're represented at the highest level."
Several speakers called on employers to adopt more proactive recruiting strategies. For example, a newspaper or internet advertisement might not reach Black or brown workers. Companies may need to go to churches or community institutions to improve their visibility and engagement with more diverse groups. As their level of engagement grows, so too will the number of job applicants.
Many roundtable participants implored businesses to have chief diversity officers report to CEOs instead of HR directors so that company leaders receive more in-depth information directly from the source.
"HR leaders have a powerful role to play in HIRE," Yang said. "But it is important for organizational leaders to support them and provide the necessary resources."