Comply with EEOC Laws - Equal Opportunity Employment

Editor's Note: Know the role of the EEOC and its power to enforce the law

Beth P. ZollerOverview: 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

Latest items in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

  • EEOC Releases Employer Wellness Programs Final Rules

    Date:
    May 25, 2016
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final rules on employer wellness programs, which address employee protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

  • Transgender Workplace Rights: EEOC Releases Fact Sheet, North Carolina Lawsuits Filed

    Date:
    May 11, 2016
    Type:
    News

    Transgender rights in the workplace garner national attention as the EEOC issues a Fact Sheet and the Department of Justice challenges North Carolina's enforcement of its Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (House Bill 2).

  • EEOC Retaliation, Disability Charges Up Over Last Year

    Date:
    February 17, 2016
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed 5% more retaliation charges against private-sector employers in fiscal year 2015 than the year before, according to a new report.

  • EEOC Updating Its Game Plan for Investigating Retaliation Charges

    Date:
    February 5, 2016
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has proposed updates to its manual for processing and investigating charges, making cause determinations and considering litigation relating to retaliation.

  • Obama Administration Takes Action on Equal Pay

    Date:
    February 1, 2016
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a notice in the Federal Register regarding a proposed revision of the Employer Information Report (EEO-1), furthering the Obama Administration's plans to advance equal pay protections for all workers.

  • EEOC Systemic Recoveries Increase in 2015; Trend Expected to Continue in 2016

    Date:
    December 30, 2015
    Type:
    News

    According to its 2015 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) secured more than $525 million in private, state and local government and federal workplace discrimination cases. Systemic investigations accounted for a notable $33.5 million in remedies prior to filing litigation.

  • Seventh Circuit Rules Against EEOC Regarding CVS Separation Agreements

    Date:
    December 18, 2015
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may not broadly enforce separation agreements that may limit an employee's right to file a charge with the agency absent a conciliation attempt or an allegation that the employer engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory practices, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

  • Podcast: What Proposed New GINA Rules Mean for HR

    Date:
    December 8, 2015
    Type:
    Podcasts and Webinars

    This podcast features a conversation with EEOC Assistant Legal Counsel Chris Kuzcynski about proposed changes to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) that would enable employers with wellness programs to offer limited incentives in exchange for an employee's spouse providing information about his or her health status.

  • EEOC Seeks to Amend Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

    Date:
    November 12, 2015
    Type:
    News

    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.

  • EEOC's Enforcement Strategy Yields $17 Million Verdict in Sexual Harassment Case

    Date:
    September 25, 2015
    Type:
    News

    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.