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
Revised policy to reflect minor edits made as part of a regular review for compliance with the National Labor Relations Board’s opinions regarding employer policies.
Updated guidance to reflect EEOC guidance on employer-provided leaves of absence as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
Employers should prepare for the possibility that the Gadsden Flag, which shows the words "Don't Tread on Me" below a coiled rattlesnake, could be considered a racist symbol by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the release of a one-page fact sheet designed to communicate religious discrimination protections to younger workers. In addition, the EEOC will implement changes in the collection of demographic data from individuals who file charges with the agency.
Updated in light of revised proposed rule regarding EEO-1 Report.
The EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace has released its report after a 14-month study of workplace harassment. The report includes a toolkit of compliance assistance measures for employers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has voted to release for public input a proposed enforcement guidance addressing national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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 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).
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.
HR guidance on understanding the powers and responsibilities of the EEOC.