The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
"Employment Discrimination in the Aftermath of September 11"
December 11, 2001

Remarks of the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) welcomes the opportunity to submit testimony regarding our organization's response to our members needs in the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

SHRM is the leading voice of the human resource profession. SHRM provides education and information services, conferences and seminars, government and media representation, online services and publications to more than 165,000 professional and student members throughout the world. The Society is the world's largest human resource management association with members in more than 70 countries.

Terry Kassel who is Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., has said that "the three most important things an employer can do in a crisis like this are communicate, communicate, communicate." Effectivecommunication proved to be boh paramount as well as an asset to SHRM in developing an action plan within twenty-four hours of the attacks that was able to meet the needs of our diverse membership worldwide.

Like those at many organizations, SHRM employees watched in horror as the events of September 11th unfolded. Within hours, Susan R. Meisinger, Executive Vice President and COO sent an all staff e-mail alerting employees to the day's events and, more importantly, set in motion a process by which we could communicate to our members information they might need. The email re-stated the tragic events of the day and recognized that many SHRM employees may have had family or friends impacted by the events thus instituting a liberal leave policy for the day.

Past experience has shown us that the web is the most effective mode of communication to HR professionals as evidenced by the fact that SHRM's webpage receives approximately 6-7 million hits per month. We knew we had information ourmembers would want anduse for even such a devastating event as this.

First, SHRM quickly designated an area on our website solely dedicated to the human resource profession's response to terrorism, it was appropriately titled--"HR Responds to Terrorism". Second, with an extensive amount of web based information, SHRM (over 10 thousand pages) was in need of gathering the appropriate information and making sure it was easily accessible to HR professionals trying to lead their company's response. An ad-hoc committee, consisting of staff from SHRM's Information Center, Internet Operations and Public Affairs departments, was quickly formed to coordinate and implement the organization's response. In addition, all staff members were asked to inform the committee of any resources that might be helpful. The SHRM Information Center; which is staffed by HR professionals, answers over 60,000 HR related questions by our members a year. This department has a large collection of reference materials such as Wite Papers, lgal reports, HR Basics, HR links and an extensive library. SHRM's Internet Operations function is to post and maintains all online content including publishing HR News online daily. SHRM's Public Affairs supports SHRM's goals of promoting positive workplace practices and highlighting the importance of the human resource management profession through its community outreach, Diversity Initiative and Media Affairs program, which handles approximately 3,000 inquiries on workplace topics from the news media annually.

On September 12th, the committee began meeting daily to build and develop the new area on the website. "HR Responds to Terrorism" served as a central go-to point for resources for the members as well as other representatives from the business community. This special section was kept live and updated on the SHRM website for two months and much of the content, which had previously been member password protected, was opened to any employers or HR professionas in seach of information. Prior to the committee's first meeting, the Information Center was already receiving calls from HR professionals who had questions, needed ideas or had compliance concerns related to the attacks. Therefore, the committee was able to clearly begin identifying issues that HR professionals would potentially be faced with in the coming months and years. While the focus of the questions would change as time progressed, the center received 467 calls on Military Leave, 66 calls on Diversity issues, and 151 calls on Crisis Management/Security. In total, 684 September 11th related calls were received from September to November. Identification of the issues became a collaborative process with our members. Rather than simply dictating to our membership what the issues were, SHRM was able to internally forecast potential issues based on the expertise and inquires of the membership, and respond to such inquiries immediately.

The committee then cross-referenced its list of relant issues related to September 11th with existing website content. SHRM produces many different types of publications for its membership including, but not limited to, business literacy programs, program/issue toolkits (i.e. diversity, immigration/visas, compensation, layoffs, etc.), webcast transcripts, compliance assistance, sample workplace policies, sample employee handbooks, white papers, government affairs/policy positions, access to the Information Center, HR chat rooms and bulletin boards to post personal stories, HR compliance assistance, HR Magazine, HR News, workplace trends forecasting, and professional certification. The Information Center conducted a comprehensive review of the content described above and linked all pertinent information to the HR Responds to Terrorism area. The area was then broken down into various sections by issue. All relevant White Papers were posted in the first section including: conducting a critical incident stress debriefing, critical incident respons traning, employee communication, emergency preparedness, military leave, national outrage, and peace at work. The remaining sections varied from Anthrax threats, employer response, sample workplace policy, sample crisis communications, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) information, Mental Health Services, workplace guidance from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the EEOC, job placement, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, "Tell Us Your Stories," and volunteer/donation opportunities.

In addition, the Information Center contacted the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for additional resources and guidance in relation to safety and security issues as well as sample crisis communication letters.

The Internet Operations department served as the conduit for information and upkeep of the area. On a continual basis, Internet Operations published HR related stories and articles, and monitored the HR Bulletin Board (an online chat room for R professinals on the SHRM website) for comments and personal stories, in addition to posting all content it received from the Information Center and ad-hoc committee. Additionally, Internet Operations worked in conjunction with the Society's Editorial department in collecting other personal stories from SHRM members not captured by the website. SHRM sought out exemplary employers and HR departments that went above and beyond what they were legally required by law to do in order to protect and address the needs of all employees while continuing to provide a safe and comfortable working environment. We thought it was important for all our members to see the best practices of these companies so that they could apply them to their own organization. See Appendix A to read from the December, 2001 edition of HR Magazine, the personal stories of many HR professionals who went beyond required job duties to meet the needs of employees. Featured stories include: Above and Beyond, Among the Heroes of Set. 11 were manyHR professionals; A Job Well Done, Following the terrorist attacks, HR professionals helped keep business running--and employee spirits up; Fighting Backlash, When Individuals lash out at Muslims and Arab-Americans, HR must step in to keep the peace; Aftershocks of the 11th, Time will heal employees' wounds, but perhaps more slowly than you realize; Learning the Lessons of History, Look to WWII England for courage under attack; What Now? HR may need to become a more active participant in workplace issues affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

The aftermath of September 11th left many Americans feeling helpless. Those feelings of helplessness turned into a will and desire to lend assistance to the relief effort. SHRM members began to contact the Public Affairs department via phone, email, and through HR Talk volunteering their services, expertise, and time for companies in need. The department maintained a list of nearly 200 SHRM members on the website who wated to volunteer thei time and expertise as HR professionals. This list was provided to a SHRM chapter in New York City, the HR Association of New York.

The Public Affairs department, through the media, spread the word to employers as to what companies should be doing from a human resource standpoint. Many of the press inquiries dealt with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, EAPs, eecommunications, and military leaves of absence.

Furthermore, SHRM partnered with several outside organizations to offer two very important opportunities. SHRM partnered with the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA); Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.; the U.S. Department of Labor - Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS); and eePulse to gather information on issues that were likely to create questions to HR professionals and employers. Three webcasts were held: Attacked but not Defeated--Bent but not Broken--Business Leadership in the Aftermath of September 11t and An Employer' Guide to Military Leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994 (repeated due to its popularity). The webcasts were held September 20th and October 4th respectively and drew 300-500 participants per webcast made up of SHRM and ITAA members, as well as clientele from Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

SHRM also partnered with eePulse, a company that combines technology and research to enhance the work environment by gauging the "pulse" of the workplace. eepulse worked with SHRM to conduct a survey of HR Professionals titled, HR Implications of the Attack on America. The goal of the survey was to ascertain what HR professionals and employees throughout the United States were thinking and what actions they were taking since the tragic event occurred. The survey was fielded September 18th and the results were tabulated September 22nd. The survey was ditributed to approximately 120,000 inividual members of SHRM across the nation and around the world. In total, 5, 606 individuals responded to the survey over a three day period.

When asked, "In the wake of last Tuesday's tragedy, what did your organization do and what are you continuing to do for or with your employees?" Eighty-three percent of respondents indicated that they allowed employees to watch TV or listen to the radio. Sixty-seven percent indicated that employees were allowed to postpone or cancel business travel. Sixty-two percent allowed employees time off, and fifty-one percent indicated they were flying the American flag at half-mast. Another question asked, "In your opinion, how will the workplace change as a result of last Tuesday's tragedy?" The top response, with sixty-six percent, stated that employees will be more caring toward one another. The next closest response with fifty-six percent indicated that organizations will put higher security provisions in place. Fifty-to percent indicated that business travel will b curtailed. When provided opportunity for written response, respondents cited that there would likely be a resurgence of EAP programs and a heavier reliance on the HR function along with caring management. Others thought that telecommuting would increase and would become an attractive employee benefit, that questions would arise as to the value of diversity, and that there would be an increase in the scope of disaster recovery plans. The Executive Summary and the survey results are included as Appendix B.

The survey became an important vehicle in letting members and the news media know what employers around the country were doing. Results of the survey were covered by the national news media as they struggled to understand the implications of the attacks on the workplace. In addition, it served as a poignant wake up call to employers who didn't have a disaster plan in place (only half of the respondents had a plan).

It bcame evident almost instantly after the attacks in New York and ashington, D.C. that the American workplace would forever be changed as a result. Naturally, employment discrimination became an immediate concern not only to the President of the United States but to employers, HR departments, and employees throughout the nation. Human Resource professionals sought to strengthen and communicate company policies on discrimination in the workplace and to prevent future discrimination or prejudice against employees of different race and/or religion.

The loss of human capital in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania was devastating not only to the families of the victims but to business owners who suffered loss on multiple levels, including; employees, property, time, and productivity. Some companies lost more than half of their employees, others lost a few, while others didn't loose a single family member, but were affected in other ways. The loss of life and physical property has given brth to a whole host of workplace issues from issuance of company payroll or compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act to enforcement of Civil Rights Laws in America's workplaces.

In conclusion, addressing the immediate needs and concerns of the HR profession and determining the long-range impacts on the workplace post September 11th proved essential in properly serving the SHRM membership. Thanks to an interactive dialogue between HR professionals and the SHRM staff, the organization was able to develop an immediate response, in a well organized and uniform manner that addressed the needs of a diverse membership. This effort allowed SHRM to touch all of its 165,000 members and potentially millions more through the use of technology. It is our hope that these tragic events may serve as a learning experience for HR professionals, employees, and employers around the world and help to prepare these groups for workplace crisis in the future. This experience above all has shown that dierse groups of people can join together in times of national need to hold a singlar objective above all others.

Thank you again for the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of the Society at such an important time. If SHRM can be of further assistance, providing a link between the EEOC and the human resource profession, please feel free to contact the Governmental Affairs department at (703)535-6028 or at 1800 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3499.


This page was last modified on March 20, 2002.

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