Overview: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that is is responsible for enforcing federal laws regarding employee discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
It handles complaints by employees and applicants based on an individual's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information. Similarly, in most states there is a fair employment agency that functions in much the same manner.
Generally, an individual claiming discrimination under federal law may not directly file a lawsuit in court, but rather, the individual must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies and file a charge with the EEOC or an applicable state fair employment agency.
The EEOC investigates employment discrimination claims and also provides mediation services in order to effectuate a settlement. If a settlement is not possible, the EEOC will file a lawsuit in federal court to protect the rights of the individuals involved as well as the public interest in eliminating employment discrimination. The EEOC also provides leadership and guidance on all federal employment discrimination laws.
Trends: In its most recent Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC stated that it will focus on remedying disparate pay and discriminatory language policies especially as applied to immigrant, migrant and vulnerable workers. It will further attempt to eliminate systemic barriers to recruiting and hiring legally protected classes, including barriers in preemployment screening and exclusionary practices. It also emphasized that it will continue to apply sex discrimination provisions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as provide protection and accommodations to pregnant women and individuals with disabilities under the ADA Amendments Act. The EEOC will also reevaluate strategies to be more effective in preventing and responding to harassment in the workplace and increasing education and outreach efforts to employees and employers. Further, employers should be aware that the EEOC is aggressively pursuing employers who use severance and settlement agreements that unlawfully deter employees from filing claims of discrimination or harassment and participating in EEOC investigations.
Employers should also note that the EEOC has broad powers to subpoena employee records and information during the course of an investigation which may include names, contact information, social security numbers and reasons for employee terminations. The EEOC is generally entitled to such information so long as it is relevant or related to a charge of discrimination or harassment.
Author: Beth P Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
The EEOC has proposed changes to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) that will impact employer-sponsored wellness programs. The proposed rule would allow employers that offer wellness programs to offer incentives in exchange for an employee's spouse providing information about his or her health status.
A federal court in Miami has finalized a $17 million jury verdict against Moreno Farms of Felda, Florida, for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that the EEO-1 Joint Reporting Committee has extended the deadline for all EEO-1 Report filers from September 30, 2015 to October 30, 2015.
Maryland employers engaged in an industry or business who have 15 or more employees for each working day in 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Arizona employers with 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on disability should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Texas employers with 15 or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers covered by Title VII and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on religion should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
In a historic ruling, the EEOC has found that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Florida employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
HR guidance on understanding the powers and responsibilities of the EEOC.