FLSA/Wages

‘Steering’ Is 2014’s New Twist on Discrimination

HR’s watchdog agencies—the DOL, EEOC, and OFCCP—are looking at a new variant on discrimination they call “steering.” It’s not immediate discrimination, but long-range discrimination.

What Is Steering?

“Steering” may be charged when people in a protected class are “steered” to jobs with lower long-term potential than other similar jobs.

For example, in a grocery store, women might be steered to entry-level jobs in the floral department while men are steered to jobs in the meat department. Initially, both jobs pay the same, but the advancement opportunities are significantly greater in the meat department. That is viewed as discrimination by steering.

The Department of Labor (DOL), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) are expected to pay close attention to steering in 2014.

Same Steering Action Discriminates Against Both Men and Women!

A recent case of blatant steering was recently settled by the DOL. G&K Services Co. settled claims of pay and hiring discrimination by agreeing to pay $265,983 in back pay to 59 women who were steered into lower-paying jobs regardless of their qualifications.

But the company also discriminated against men at the same time, because male applicants were considered only for the higher-paying jobs. And that’s going to cost G&K Services another $23,968.


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The conciliation agreement between the federal contractor’s facility located in Santa Fe Springs, CA, and the department’s OFCCP resolves both pay discrimination violations.

"The settlement reflects a mutual commitment between the department and the leadership of G&K Services Co. to ensure that qualified workers, irrespective of gender, have a fair shot at competing for good jobs," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu.

During a compliance evaluation, the OFCCP determined that G&K Services had a practice of assigning laundry workers to different tasks and different pay rates on the basis of gender. Specifically, the OFCCP found that female employees who had been hired as general laborers were assigned to "light-duty" jobs that paid less than the "heavy-duty" jobs involving similar work and qualifications, which the company reserved for men.

In an interesting twist, the same practice was found to discriminate against men. Investigators also found that male applicants were frequently denied the option to compete for a majority of the open laborer opportunities during the review period because the company only considered them for so-called heavy-duty work.

In addition to the $265,983 in back wages to the 59 female workers who were steered into the lower-paying jobs, G&K Services will also extend to the 59 female class members job offers in the higher-paying laborer positions.

In addition to paying the $23,968 in back wages to 331 male job applicants who were denied the opportunity to compete for open lower-paying laborer positions, G&K Services will make three job offers.


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The company has also agreed to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures and review and revise their hiring and pay practices to ensure they fully comply with the law.

What Should Employers Do?

If you hire large numbers of people and parcel them out to a variety of jobs, you might do a quick analysis to see if steering might be going on. And certainly, if certain classes are being steered to lower-paying jobs, that’s a big red flag.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, another teaching case, plus an introduction to the guide some call the FMLA Bible.

  • Barb

    What type of evidence are the agencies looking for to show steering?