Originally posted on the Broadcast Law Blog.
The FCC has issued Notices of Apparent Liability against two radio licensees for apparent EEO violations at their respective station clusters. These NALs, issued on the next to last day of the FCC's business year, are the first to address EEO violations in a year and a half. The common thread in both NALs was the licensee's failure to properly recruit for new hires, relying primarily on "walk-ins" or referrals in lieu of the "wide dissemination" required for information about job openings. In one case, where the licensee failed to widely disseminate information about 28 job openings, the FCC proposed a fine of $20,000. In the other case, where the station owner was able to document recruitment efforts for some of its openings, the FCC proposed a fine of $8000 for the six jobs where the required recruitment efforts were found lacking.
In the first NAL, the $20,000 proposed forfeiture was based on a finding that the licensee failed to properly recruit for 28 of the 29 full-time vacancies filled over a six year period. Instead, the licensee relied on "walk-ins" and referrals for six vacancies, and used the Internet or on-air ads for 22 vacancies. These methods alone do not constitute sufficient dissemination of job vacancies under FCC rules. In a post last year, we explained that the FCC does not consider Internet advertising alone to be sufficient for recruitment purposes, and questioned whether that policy is appropriate in this day and age.
Other violations by this licensee included the failure to keep records of the number and source of interviewees and the resulting violation of FCC rules requiring such information to be kept in the station's public inspection file. The lack of records meant the licensee could not adequately analyze its EEO recruitment program to ensure that it was achieving broad outreach, also an FCC rule violation. The combination of rule violations and number of hires involved was found sufficiently egregious to justify a $20,000 forfeiture.
In the second NAL, the FCC found insufficient recruitment efforts for six of 24 job openings. Rather, the licensee aired "generic" ads about working at the stations, even when there were no specific openings, and hired three of the resulting "walk-ins." The licensee also hired one employee referred by word of mouth, one from a business referral and one from an employee referral. Although such hiring methods are not prohibited, the FCC does not consider them to be sufficient public recruitment for the openings that were filled. Additional recruiting sources must be used to satisfy the FCC's current requirements for "wide dissemination."
Other violations cited by the FCC in the second case included the licensee's failure to list specific job titles in its EEO public file report for seven new hires, all of whom were classified as "other." In so doing, the licensee also violated the rule that requires information about the jobs filled to be placed in the station's public inspection file. This NAL resulted in a proposed forfeiture of $8000.
Both licensees have the right to respond and can ask the FCC to reduce or cancel the proposed forfeitures based on the specific facts. However, these two NALs show that the FCC is once again getting tough on enforcement of its EEO rules and licensees would be well advised to take any steps necessary to insure strict compliance with those rules. For further information about a licensee's EEO obligations, see our most recent advisory on the requirements for the annual EEO public inspection file report.