FCC Adds EEO Relief to List of COVID-19 Actions
This afternoon, the FCC released a brief Order looking toward the day when life in the U.S. hopefully returns to normal, and broadcast stations begin rehiring furloughed workers.
In the two-page Order, the FCC waived the requirement in its EEO Rule that broadcasters and MVPDs engage in “broad outreach” when filling each full-time job position. Making clear that this relief is restricted to the circumstances of COVID-19, the FCC limited application of the waiver to the rehiring of station employees that were laid off due to the pandemic, and only where the employee is then rehired within nine months of being laid off.
The FCC reasoned that:
Given the unique importance of broadcasters and MVPDs in providing access to breaking news and critical information relating to the pandemic, the public interest, convenience, and necessity would be best served by encouraging these entities to maintain, or quickly resume, normal operations. Facilitating the expeditious re-hiring of full-time employees laid off as a result of the pandemic to job vacancies created by the pandemic supports this important goal.
While the FCC has long recognized a narrow exception to its broad recruitment requirement where a hire occurs under “exigent circumstances” (and it’s hard to imagine more exigent circumstances than a station bringing its employees back on board after a pandemic), today’s waiver avoids the need for stations to have to prove exigent circumstances existed when facing an EEO audit or other EEO review down the road.
The good news is that today’s waiver gives broadcasters and MVPDs one less thing to worry about during the pandemic. The bad news is that it still leaves about 999,999 others for them to address in the coming months.