The Internet may be the go-to place for job-seekers, but the FCC still insists on an Old School approach when it comes to broadcast jobs and EEO.
Despite the fact that the Commission has itself acknowledged, repeatedly, that the Internet is an important, maybe even “critical”, resource for job-seekers, broadcasters with jobs to offer had better not rely on the Internet alone when recruiting for those jobs. If they do, they’re looking at a fine that could run into five digits. Ask a couple of licensees – one in Virginia, one in South Carolina – who just found out the hard way.
The FCC has long required broadcast employment units with five or more full-time employees to recruit broadly for minority and female applicants for all job openings. A report of recruitment efforts, including the referral sources that are notified of openings, must be placed in the public file of all stations in such employment units every year; they must also be posted on the stations’ websites (if they have websites). At the middle of the license term and at renewal time, those employment units must submit reports on their EEO efforts to the Commission. And each year the Commission also conducts random audits of EEO performance.
We have cautioned clients for at least a couple of years that the FCC insists on a broad spectrum of recruitment sources. The classic “word-of-mouth” approach and “referrals from friends” are not enough. And as we wrote just a year ago, the FCC has also cautioned that Internet-based recruitment cannot be relied on alone. (Irony alert: the fact that some businesses accept job applications only via the Internet has been touted by the Commission as a justification for its National Broadband Plan, which includes repurposing TV broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband.)
In the two recent cases (released on the last business day of 2011), the FCC nicked two station groups for $8,000 and $12,000 for inadequate dissemination of recruitment notices for some of their openings. For some, but not all, of their openings the groups had relied on Internet and word-of-mouth to spread the word. Not enough, the Commission announced. Its FCC’s words are direct and speak for themselves (although we’ve highlighted a particularly noteworthy sentence below):
The Licensee’s reliance on non-public sources such as word-of-mouth referrals and its own employee board, did not constitute sufficient recruitment as contemplated under the Commission’s rules, which require public outreach. …While the Commission does not require the use of a specific number of recruitment sources, if a source or sources cannot reasonably be expected, collectively, to reach the entire community, as here, a licensee may be found in noncompliance with the Commission’s EEO Rule. Further, the Commission’s interpretation of the EEO Rule does not allow a licensee to recruit solely from Internet sources to meet the requirement to widely disseminate information concerning the vacancy.
We have been told over and over again by clients that the Internet is just about the only recruitment source that produces any results and that mailing notices of vacancies to a large list of community organizations is an exercise in futility. That may be so in the Real World, but on Planet FCC things are apparently different – so the wise licensee will continue to keep a good supply of paper and postage stamps on hand.