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.
Author: Beth P Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has joined a number of other federal agencies in increasing the civil monetary fines that may be assessed for violations of the statutes it enforces. These increases, upping the maximum penalty from $110 to $210, are part of a legally-required periodic review on possible adjustments for inflation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released two new publications instructing employers with regard to employee religious garb and grooming in the workplace: a lengthy Question and Answer Guide as well as a Fact Sheet on religious discrimination and accommodation. The EEOC notes that this guidance comes after a marked increase in the number of religious discrimination lawsuits.
The EEOC recently entered into a consent decree with Roy Farms Inc. in which the employer agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a same-sex harassment lawsuit. This type of settlement should alert an employer that although sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal law, same-sex harassment and gender stereotyping violate federal civil rights laws.
The EEOC entered into a consent judgment with Boh Bros. Construction Co., in which the employer agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a same-sex harassment case that has bounced from the trial court to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and back.
The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) recently announced in a press release that it has settled a wage discrimination lawsuit with Extended Stay Hotels for $75,800 on behalf of a receptionist and three of her female co-workers. EEOC v. HVM L.L.C., D/B/A Extended Stay Hotels, Civil Action No. 8:13-cv-01980. The settlement confirms that the EEOC will continue to focus on equal pay and discriminatory pay practices as one of its six strategic enforcement priorities.
The EEOC alleges in a recently-filed lawsuit that CVS unlawfully violated employees' rights by conditioning the receipt of severance benefits on an "overly broad, misleading and unenforceable" separation agreement that could deter employees from filing discrimination charges or voluntarily communicating with the EEOC. Employers should continue to follow the development of this case as it will likely have an impact on employer separation agreements.
The EEOC recently released fiscal year 2013 data on its enforcement and litigation efforts during a record-breaking year in which it obtained $372.1 million in monetary relief. The data shows that there was a 5.7% decrease in the number of charges received during fiscal year 2013 (i.e., 93,727 in 2013 compared to 99,412 in 2012).
The EEOC recently announced that it reached a settlement with financial services firm JPMorgan Chase in which JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $1,450,000 to resolve allegations of sex discrimination and sex-based harassment brought by female mortgage brokers at a Columbus, Ohio facility.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has entered into a settlement with Wal-Mart Associates, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., L.P., d/b/a Wal-Mart stores in Albuquerque, of a claim that Wal-Mart refused to hire the son and daughter of a Wal-Mart employee because of a sex discrimination charge she had filed earlier against the retailer.
A recent 6th Circuit decision provides employers with insight regarding what it means to be considered a joint employer under Title VII.
HR guidance on understanding the powers and responsibilities of the EEOC.