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.
Author: Beth P Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released detailed information regarding private sector enforcement data statistics for fiscal year 2014. The statistics show that retaliation claims represented the highest percentage of the total amount of workplace discrimination charges received.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that asks how far the EEOC must go to try to resolve discrimination claims before suing an employer. The Equal Employment Advisory Counsel's Rae Vann comments to XpertHR about why Mach Mining v. EEOC raises a significant issue affecting employers.
Law firm Littler Mendelson has issued its Annual Report on EEOC Developments regarding the agency's 2014 activities, which shows that the agency issued reasonable cause determinations in 45% of systemic investigations conducted in 2014 compared to 35% in Fiscal Year 2013. The report, which examines available EEOC data from an employer's perspective, emphasizes that many questions remain in select EEOC cases from 2014.
Texas employers with 15 or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Florida employers should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
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.
Alaska employers with one or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers with 20 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year that seek to prohibit harassment and inform employees about the appropriate channels for complaints should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
West Virginia employers with 12 or more employees in West Virginia should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Idaho employers with five or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
HR guidance on understanding the powers and responsibilities of the EEOC.