EEO Plan

Equal Employment Opportunity Plan

I.  Statement
It is the policy of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners (Board), to provide equal opportunity employment to all employees and applicants for employment. No person is to be discriminated against based upon age, race, sex, religion, color, national origin, disability/handicap, gender, genetics or any other legally protected class/group.

Equal employment opportunity shall be applied to all aspects of the employment process including, but not limited to, recruiting, testing, hiring, transfers, promotions, demotions, compensation, benefits, training, termination, layoff, and recall practices.

The Board will assure a determined and sustained effort in support of this belief and the policies outlined in its Equal Employment Opportunity Plan (Plan). The Board believes special measures and efforts are appropriate to preclude discrimination within its organization.  To effectively promote Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), the Board will seek the assistance of appropriate entities including community and civic organizations, educational institutions, vendors, and appropriate government agencies.

An effective equal opportunity program cannot be achieved without the support of supervisory personnel and employees at all levels.  Overall, the authority for the direction of equal employment opportunity policy, programs, and practices is vested with the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator.

II.  RESPONSIBILITY FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN
The Human Resources Manager/EEO/ADA Coordinator is responsible for implementation and general administration of the Plan and will continually review all personnel policies, employment practices and procedures, and make recommendations on the steps to achieve full equal employment opportunity.  The EEO Coordinator has the support of the Board and is given adequate time and assistance to execute this assignment.

The EEO Coordinator’s responsibilities include, but not limited to the following:
  • Revise this Equal Employment Opportunity Plan and develop techniques for communicating the Board’s policy and program both internally and externally.
  • Assist in identifying possible problem areas of EEO problem areas.
  • Assist management in arriving at effective solutions to EEO problem areas.
  • All required reports including developing and implementing audit and reporting systems designed to measure the effectiveness of the Plan, as well as individual departmental efforts and identify areas that appear to require special attention or remedial action.
  • Act as resource person in equal employment opportunity, and serve as liaison between the Board and departments, enforcement agencies, special groups representing minorities, women, persons with disabilities and other community groups as appropriate.
  • Investigate complaints and work to resolve internal and external complaints of alleged discrimination and harassment.
  • Evaluate training activities related to equal employment opportunity programs and non-discrimination policies.
  • Review of qualifications of all employees to ensure qualified individuals are treated in a nondiscriminatory manner when hiring, promotion, transfer and termination actions occur.
  • Auditing the contents of bulletin boards to ensure the compliance information is posted and up-to-date.
  • Ensure the completion of the EEO-4 Report filed with the EEOC every odd year.
  • Assure that Supervisors are being consistent with the County’s Personnel Rules & Regulations and equal employment opportunity principles when making employment decisions, including job knowledge and skill requirement, interviews, compensation commitments, assignments, training and evaluation and employee relations.
  • Assure that Supervisors follow and report to appropriate personnel any allegations of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
III.  IDENTIFICATION OF POSSIBLE PROBLEM AREAS
RECRUITMENT AND APPLICATIONS:
  • The hiring and selection process consists of interviews conducted by an Interview Panel comprised of three (3) or more members to include the Supervisor, Department Director or department designee, and a member of Human Resources.  For most positions, prior experience is necessary.  Background investigations of applicants are comprehensive and include driving record and criminal background checks.  For safety sensitive positions, drug testing is required.
  • A review of present employee complement will be conducted to ensure that there is no discriminatory selection based on employment.
  • Employment applications will be maintained and will be reviewed by department directors, or their designee, to ensure a non-discriminatory selection process.  If any deficiencies are observed a meeting will be held to discuss and correct the problem.
  • The employment application form, whether paper or electronic, conforms to applicable state and federal regulations.
  • Job titles are descriptive of job content.
  • Qualified minorities and women receive all benefits received by non-minorities and are included in any Board sponsored activities or programs, if they are otherwise so entitled.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Plan is supported by all department directors and supervisors. 
JOB DESCRIPTIONS AND QUALIFICATION STANDARDS
  •  Analyze job description and qualification standards to be sure that in themselves they do not cause inadvertent unlawful discrimination and are free of gender bias.
  • Ensure all members of management involved in recruitment, screening, and promotion fully understand the requirements of the established job.
  • The overall selection process will be reviewed continually including training and promotion procedures to ensure it is not biased or stereotypes minorities and women.
  • All personnel involved in recruiting, screening, selecting, promoting, disciplining, and related processes continue to be carefully selected and trained to ensure that commitments to this Equal Employment Opportunity Plan are fully implemented.
  • Qualified minorities and women will continue to be given careful consideration for all available positions.
IV.  INTERNAL AUDIT AND REPORTING SYSTEMS
Reports will be created for the submission of the EEO-4 Report biennially, or as requested. The following personnel activities are reviewed to ensure nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity to all employees and applicants:
  • Recruitment, advertising, and job application procedures.
  • Hiring, promotion, layoff, recall from layoff.
  • Rates of pay and any other forms of compensation including fringe benefits.
  • Job assignments, job classifications, and job descriptions.
  • Sick leave, leaves of absence or any other leave.
  • Training and attendance at professional meetings and conferences. 
V.  COMPLAINT RESOLUTION PROCEDURES
It is the policy of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners (Board), to ensure that anyone having reason to believe they may have been subjected to discrimination are urged to bring those concerns to the attention of their immediate supervisor. 

Procedures are as follows:
  1. The complaint should be in writing using the Discrimination Complaint Form and contain information about the alleged discrimination such as name, address, phone number of complainant and location, date, and description of the problem.  Alternative means of filing complaints, such as personal interviews or a tape recording of the complaint, will be made available for persons with disabilities upon request.
  2. The complaint should be submitted by the grievant and/or his/her designee as soon as possible but no later than fourteen (14) business days after the alleged violation to: Human Resources Manager /EEO/ADA Coordinator, 600 South Commerce Avenue, Sebring, Fl 33870
  3. Within fourteen (14) business days after receipt of the complaint, the Human Resources Manager or his/her designee will meet with the complainant to discuss the complaint and the possible resolutions.  Within fourteen (14) business days of the meeting, the Human Resources Manager or his/her designee will respond in writing, and where appropriate, in a format accessible to the complainant, explaining the position of the Board.
  4. If the response by the Human Resources Manager or his/her designee does not satisfactorily resolve the issue, the complainant and/or his/her designee may appeal the decision within fourteen (14) business days after receipt of the response to the County Administrator or his/her designee.
  5. Within fourteen (14) business days after receipt of the appeal, the County Administrator or his/her designee will meet with the complainant to discuss the complaint and possible resolutions.  Within fourteen (14) business days after the meeting, the County Administrator or his/her designee will respond in writing, and, where appropriate, in a format accessible to the complainant, with a final resolution of the complaint. 
  6. All written complaints received by the Human Resources Manager or his/her designee, appeals to the County Administrator or his/her designee, and responses from these two offices will be retained by the Board for at least three (3) years.
VI.  COUNTY POLICY 
HARASSMENT POLICY
Harassment that is unlawful negatively affects morale, motivation, and work performance, as well as absenteeism and turnover. The Board does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment based on age, race, sex, religious belief, color, national origin, disability/handicap, gender, genetics, or any other category of protected persons as prohibited by law.

Harassment based on age, race, sex, religious belief, color, national origin, disability/handicap, gender, genetics, or any other category of protected persons, or other status as prohibited by law, is illegal. Verbal or physical conduct may constitute unlawful harassment when:
  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly as a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that person, i.e. pay increases, promotions, job assignments, etc.
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. 
SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment may consist of:
  • Making sexual advances or seeking sexual favors or actions from an employee in exchange for better working conditions, a promotion, raise, or other improvement of job condition.
  • Asking for sexual favors.
  • Making sexual comments or jokes.
  • Unwanted physical contact. 

This is not a complete list of sexual harassment behaviors. If any employee feels that they are put in an uncomfortable position because of their sex, this could be considered harassment. 

EXAMPLES OF OTHER INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR
Specific examples of inappropriate or illegal behavior include, but are not limited to:
  • Negative or offensive comments, jokes, or suggestions about another employee’s gender or sexuality.
  • Obscene or lewd sexual comments, jokes, suggestions, or innuendos.
  • Slang names or labels that others find offensive, i.e. honey, sweetie, boy, girl, etc.
  • Making negative comments about or calling attention to an employee’s body or sexual characteristics.
  • Laughing at, ignoring, or minimizing the complaints of an employee who experiences sexual harassment.
  • Continuing certain behavior after a coworker has objected to that behavior.
  • Displaying nude or sexual pictures, cartoons, etc. on County property.
RETALIATION
Any retaliation against a person for filing a harassment/discrimination charge or making a harassment/discrimination complaint is prohibited.

Retaliation occurs when adverse action is taken against an individual who, reports a concern about potential illegal or unethical conduct or a violation of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners policies or procedures.  Employees found to be retaliating against another employee shall be subject to disciplinary action up to, and including, termination.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES POLICY 
It is the policy of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners (Board), to ensure that full consideration is given to individuals with disabilities for employment. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted to “promote and expand employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals and to place such individuals in employment.” Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by 45 CFR, Part 84, however, does not protect all “handicapped persons.” To be considered as within the protected class/group, an individual must be a “qualified person with a handicap or disability.” With respect to employment, the affected individual must be able “with reasonable accommodations (to) perform the essential functions of the job in question.” The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and as amended in 2009, Title I, Employment, further outlines the federal law that protects qualified individuals who have disabilities from being discriminated against in all phases of employment. 
  • In accordance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), the Highlands County BCC will not discriminate against qualified individuals should he or she have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; have record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such impairment.
  • Effective Communication: Highlands County BCC will generally, upon request, provide appropriate aids and services leading to effective communication for qualified persons with disabilities so they can participate equally in Highlands County BCC programs, services, and activities, including qualified sign language interpreters, documents in Braille, and other ways of making information and communications accessible to people who have speech, hearing, or vision impairments.
  • Modifications to Policies and Procedures: Highlands County BCC will make all reasonable modifications to policies and programs to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to enjoy all its programs, services, and activities.  For example, individuals with service animals are welcomed in Highlands County offices, even where pets are generally prohibited. 
  • Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication, or a modification of policies or procedures to participate in a program, service, or activity of the Highlands County BCC, should contact the Human Resources Manager / ADA Coordinator, at 863-402-6500 as soon as possible but no later than forty-eight (48) hours before the scheduled event.
  • The ADA does not require the Board to take any action that would fundamentally alter the nature of its programs or services, or impose an undue financial or administrative burden.
  • The Board will not place a surcharge on an individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the cost of providing auxiliary aids/services or reasonable modifications of policy, such as retrieving items from locations that are open to the public but are not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs.
LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY
It is the policy of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners (Board), to take reasonable steps to ensure that persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access and an equal opportunity to participate in our services, activities, programs and other benefits. The policy also provides for communication of information contained in vital documents, including but not limited to, waivers of rights, consent documents or any other applicable forms. All interpreters, translators and other aids needed to comply with this policy shall be provided without cost to the person being served, and clients and their families will be informed of the availability of such assistance free of charge.
  • Language assistance will be provided through use of competent bilingual staff, staff interpreters, contracts or formal arrangements with local organizations providing interpretation or translation services, or technology and telephonic interpretation services. All staff will be provided notice of this policy and procedure, and staff that may have direct contact with LEP individuals will be trained in effective communication techniques, including the effective use of an interpreter.
  • Human Resources will be responsible for maintaining an accurate and current list showing the name, language, phone number and hours of availability of bilingual staff.
  • Some LEP persons may prefer or request to use a family member or friend as an interpreter. However, family members or friends of the LEP person will not be used as interpreters unless specifically requested by that individual and after the LEP person has understood that an offer of an interpreter at no charge to the person has been made by the facility. Such an offer and the response will be documented in the person’s file. If the LEP person chooses to use a family member or friend as an interpreter, issues of competency of interpretation, confidentiality, privacy, and conflict of interest will be considered. If the family member or friend is not competent or appropriate for any of these reasons, competent interpreter services will be provided to the LEP person. 
  • To ensure confidentiality of information and accurate communication, minors and other clients will not be used to interpret.
  • County staff will inform LEP persons of the availability of language assistance, free of charge, by providing written notice in languages LEP persons will understand.  At a minimum, notices and signs will be posted and provided in common areas.  Documentation will also be available on the County website.      
VII.  DISSEMINATION OF EEO POLICY
INTERNAL DISSEMINATION
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity policies are contained within the Highlands County Personnel Rules & Regulations and are posted on the County’s website.
  • New employees are given a printed copy of the Personnel Rules & Regulations which includes the EEO Plan in addition will be prominently discussed and explained in the new employee orientation sessions and/or during appropriate in-service training activities for County employees.
  • The Plan will be discussed at staff meetings, and executive staff (management) sessions.
  • The Plan will be publicized, as appropriate, in official publications for the Highlands County Board of      County Commissioners employees. 
EXTERNAL DISSEMINATION 
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity plan is posted on the County’s website.
  • Internet/online job announcements and other recruitment advertisements, publications, brochures, etc. for Highlands County Board of County Commissioners will carry the clause An Equal Employment Opportunity/ADA (EEO/ADA) Employer.
  • The County’s Plan will be shared with appropriate organizations, clubs or agencies specifically aimed at minority populations, women and other protected classes.
  • All Highlands County Board job announcements will continue to indicate that the County is an equal opportunity employer.
VIII.  GOALS AND TIMETABLES
The Highlands County Board of Commissioners (Board) shall attempt to increase the representation of those targeted under this Equal Employment Opportunity Plan by identifying targeted protected groups.  This shall be accomplished by directing, through adoption of this Plan, appointing authorities to meet goals for the inclusion of women and/or minorities who are substantially qualified to other applicants for vacancies in the targeted job categories found in the community per analysis of the work force (see appendices).
Adopted: March 19, 2019