MEOC working to expedite bias cases

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Five pending discrimination cases against reputable employers are still without a final ruling before the Madison Equal Opportunity Commission, three-and-half years after the initial Madison Equal Opportunities Division hearing. The wheels of justice often grind slowly, but this is ridiculous.

The city’s new equal opportunities division manager, who has been on the job for seven months, has taken some preliminary steps to address the backlog. Byron Bishop acknowledges the division has fallen behind, and he believes the best solution is replacing antiquated technology with new software designed to improve efficiency, better track cases, and improve communications.

“This department got way behind in technology and didn’t keep up,” he states.

The organizations that have been waiting include American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group, and Forward Services Corp. This column is not meant to address the merits or demerits of the claims filed against them, and it’s worth noting that none of them have reached out to us. We merely observe that justice delayed is justice denied; delays of two years or more are common.

Skeptics do not believe technology alone will fix this, and they cite a number of necessary process improvements, starting with an MEOC process that favors complainants, the allegedly self-serving bias of the internal probable cause investigator, and the practice of leaking a MEOC complaint to the press before defendants can even submit a written response. The latter, they note, is a fine way to damage employers’ reputations before they have a chance to defend themselves.



Bishop agrees that continual process review is important but believes the technology piece should come first, and he promised to ramp up the anti-discrimination training that MEOC provides to local employers. The 2017 city budget allocated funds to update MEOC’s technology, and the city is now engaged in a request for proposal process to solicit bids. Bishop notes there are more than 20 worthy vendors who make the necessary software, and Norman Davis, director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, says the winning bid must include a good process for migrating data from the legacy system to the new one.

Asked how long it will take to accomplish this, Bishop states, “It will be this year.”

The city of Madison has done some constructive things to improve its business climate and attract businesses, but a legal process that incents companies to settle cases and punishes those who defend themselves is counter productive.

We hope technology can remedy that.

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