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The Book, EEO Law, is Expansive but an Effective Tool

If you are looking for some light reading on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) law, this book is not for you. If you want a comprehensive, historical review of the law and how it relates to personnel and human resource practices, you’ve found it reports David Smith, President and CEO of EASI•Consult®.

This is a must-read for HR professionals, industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists, graduate students and anyone planning to engage in HR practices, and a worthy reference for employment attorneys interested in partnering with their I/0 psychologist counterparts.

The book provides a foundation for how the judicial system and federal agencies – e.g., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) – think and act when making decisions in this area.

At times, I felt the illustrious structure of the book provided me with firm footing. Other times, I felt like I was drowning in cryptic knowledge. The book covers 40 years of EEO law and cites over 700 federal court cases.

The reader is left with the challenge of determining which of these cases have had the most influence on EEO law and human resource practices.

Some of the legal terms used throughout the book are defined, many that are common to legal professionals are used without clarification.

The table of contents provides a visual picture of the chapters’ layout, and is an excellent roadmap to the most relevant EEO law issues.

The first chapter gives an overview of the book, but it covers too much detailed information in a short space. After you read the book, revisit this chapter and it will add twice as much value to your initial read.

The remaining chapters flow smoothly and are well-organized. After a chapter of reading, the writing style becomes more consumable. To use a phrase from late psychometrics expert Jum C. Nunnally, the nine chapters are “pregnant with information.”[i]

In addition to updating EEO law over the last decade, this third edition includes a chapter on retaliation. Retaliation is important since it is covered under all civil rights laws and constitutional amendments. Also, unlike most books on EEO law, this one provides a cursory, yet instructive, coverage of the U.S. Constitution.

Similar to the second edition of EEO Law, the authors use six dimensions (for EEO law, Title VII in the Civil Rights Act) to aid the reader in understanding the different laws and roles agencies (i.e., EEOC, OFCCP) and the Department of Justice play in regulating the statutes and regulations. Each chapter is organized around those six dimensions: Protected Classes; Covered Entities; Covered Practices; Administrative Procedures; Remedies; and Judicial Scenarios.

That structure reduces the opportunity to offer a clear chronological look at EEO law, which I believe is important to understanding the true intent (versus the ultimate practice) of each law or regulation.

Following the history of courtroom decisions and legislation seems, to me, to have value. It’s not unusual for a congressional bill to begin with one intent, only to be adapted throughout the legislative process and include language that impacts the outcome. It also helps to see how one decision can lead to legislation, which may lead to a challenge and another court precedent.

The authors do address the timing of activities by providing a brief historical overview in several chapters throughout but unfortunately this piecemeal approach results in a somewhat disorienting look at history.

The authors use several summarizing tools that the reader should find helpful. Most chapters have a section on “Implications for Practice,” for instance. This is reinforced by a table summarizing the same section.

At the end of each chapter are “Discussion Questions,” that further assist the reader’s comprehension. For classroom instructors, the questions are invaluable.

Overall, the authors provide a comprehensive, user-friendly resource for professional and responsible human resource practices and research, while, also, giving a foundation for how the judicial system thinks and acts when making decisions.

EEO Law and Personnel Practices (third edition), Arthur Gutman, Laura L. Koppes and Stephen J. Vodanovich; Taylor and Francis Group (New York, NY); 2011; 564 pages; $59.95 (softcover).

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[i]   Psychometric  Theory (second edition), Jum C. Nunally; McGraw-Hill Book Company (New York, NY); 1978.

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