Agency that investigates job discrimination under scrutiny
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah agency that investigates employer discrimination is under scrutiny after a state audit found it rules in favor of employees less than 1 percent of the time.
The Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division sides with employees less than comparable agencies in surrounding states and at the federal level, according to the legislative audit released earlier this year.
The audit described the division's investigations as inadequate, saying its investigators lacked proper training, The Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this month. It also said investigators didn't have the resources to obtain necessary evidence for cases.
"I tell my clients, 'It doesn't matter what you say. They will take the employer's position,'" said April Hollingsworth, an attorney who often represents workers.
Attorney Lincoln Hobbs said he tries to avoid going through the state agency at all. Instead, he sends his cases to the federal counterpart.
"It's probably a matter of understaffing or too many cases, but cases tend to not be processed in a timely manner there," Hobbs said.
Over five fiscal years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of employees 3.6 percent of the time. Agencies in surrounding states sided with employees between 3 percent and 8 percent of the time during the same period, according to Utah auditors.
Lawyers who refuse to send cases to the state are unfairly characterizing the agency, said David Jensen, the division's case manager. He said investigators always talk to employees first before gathering evidence and getting the employer's side.
The division awarded employees in discrimination cases $1 million during the last fiscal year, according to the agency's annual report.
Even with mistrust from attorneys, the number of complaints going through the agency is rising. It received 605 inquiries last month, up from 228 in November 2016.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com