Banks Succeed in EEO Resolutions: Expert Finds That Programs Initiated by Banks to Investigate and Answer Employee Discrimination Complaints Effective
Kahn, Ephraim, American Banker
WASHINGTON -- Banks have been among the leaders in developing procedures to resolve Equal Employment Opportunity disputes, according to Dr. Alan F. Westin, a Columbia University professor who spoke at a recent conferene on the subject here.
Dr. Westin, a professor of public law and government at Columbia, observed that, as the body of equal opportunity and affirmative action lw has grown, the grounds for employment discriminatiomn claims have also increased. He said progress in handling complaints could be made by use of employer-spondsored programs.
The conference cited examples of several banks that have developed such programs.
Joseph Fernandez, vice president and head of the stasff relations division at Citicorp's personnel group, outlined the procedures affecting Citibankhs 18,000 employees. He said Citbank has used several methods to help reach resolutions to personnel problems, including a grievance review mechanism called the problem-review procedure, which ha sbeen used since the mid-1960s. Independent Review Board
This procedure involves an independent review board that recommends resolutions to senior management, he said. Under the procedure, efforts to resolve disputes are first made at the immediate supervisory level. If the staff member is not satisfied with this decision, it can be appealed to the division head, who has seven days to reach a decision and notify the employee of his decision orally on in writing.
If the employee feels further steps are needed, a personnel officer will notify the bank's staff relations division. In this third step, a staff relations specialist acts as impartial adviser to the complaining employee, the line personnel officer handling the situation, and to line management.
At this point, a problem-review board is convened, the Citibank officer said. The vice president of staff relations is the only permanent member, four other members are chosen by the grievant employee from a random computer list of employees from groups other than the staff member's own.
Before the board meets, its members review the written record of the employeehs appeal and make a recommendation, which need not be unanimous. The record and decision are reviewed by the staff member's senior line manager, and a decision is rendered in writing within five days.
Peter J. Kiefer, vice presidnet at Security Pacific National Bank, said his organization averts disputes through "innovation, communication, lots of patience, and a little courage." The Los Angeles bank instituted a formal grievance procedure in 1970, in part because management wanted to avert unionization.
Mr. Kiefer reported that of 113 grievances filed in 1981, 43 were carried beyond the personnel department, and 75% of these "were either granted in the employee's favor or at a compromise." Grievances were denied in the other 25% of the cases.
Security Pacific has offered special career planning seminars to its black, Hispanic, and Asian employees, scheduling them on weekends because this "requires some employee sacrifice," Mr. Kiefer said. The seminars deal with topics such as job improvement and dealing with peers and supervisors.
Originally started for black employees as the Black Officers Support System (BOSS), these programs have been extended to Asians and Hispanics. No special programs exist for women; Mr. Kiefer maintained that "women are doing very well at Security Pacific."
In-bank networks have also been established for employees in legally protected ethnic groups, Mr. Kiefer added. These networks enable individuals to find answers to questions without risking a display of ignorance to supervisors. Security Pacific has also set up ethnic task forces to evaluate policies.
The conference also discussed Bank of America's complaint program, revised in 1979. BofA's "Lets Talk" program guarantees confidentiality, no reprisals or records of complaints in personnel files, and prompt response. …