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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: Employers should be aware that the EEOC has identified the following as some its priorities in the 2013 to 2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP): targeting discriminatory recruiting and hiring practices; protecting immigrant and migrant workers; enforcing equal pay laws; expanding efforts to combat harassment; and enabling individuals to exercise their rights under employment discrimination laws.

Building on this, the EEOC updated its SEP for 2017-2021 and in addition to the previously identified issues, the EEOC stated that it will further focus on the following: issues related to complex employment relationships (temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, gig economy); backlash against Muslim and Middle Eastern workers; lack of diversity in the technology industry; the use of data driven screening tools with regard to barriers in recruiting and hiring; inflexible leave policies, pay disparities among protected groups; and questionable waivers, releases, and arbitration agreements.

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

New and Updated

  • Restaurant Chain Pays Nearly $3 Million to Settle Age Discrimination Claims

    Date:
    May 10, 2018
    Type:
    News

    The Florida-based chain Seasons 52 has agreed to pay $2.85 million and provide equitable relief to settle an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of applicants ages 40 and older who had been denied jobs because of their age.

  • EEO - Discrimination: Federal

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    Updated to reflect extension to file EEO-1 Report.

  • EEOC Details Its Plans for Enforcement, Outreach

    Date:
    February 20, 2018
    Type:
    News

    The EEOC has released its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022 following review of comments submitted on the draft Strategic Plan. The EEOC also submitted its FY 2019 budget request, seeking more than $1.8 million above the current budgetary level.

  • Court Vacates Parts of EEOC Wellness Rule

    Date:
    January 4, 2018
    Type:
    News

    A federal court has vacated portions of the rules issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that would have allowed employers to increase healthcare insurance premiums of employees who do not participate in wellness programs. However, the order will not take effect until January 1, 2019, to avoid business disruptions.

  • EEOC Commissioner Feldblum Nominated for Third Term

    Date:
    December 19, 2017
    Type:
    News

    Chai Feldblum joined the EEOC in 2010 under President Obama and has focused her service on employment of people with disabilities, pregnancy accommodation, sexual orientation and transgender discrimination, and harassment prevention.

  • EEOC Releases Draft Strategic Plans for FY 2018-2022

    Date:
    December 13, 2017
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will focus on aligning its resources to improve discrimination prevention and public education about the discrimination laws, according to a draft of its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022.

  • EEOC Opens Online Portal to File and Track Discrimination Charges

    Date:
    November 6, 2017
    Type:
    News

    The EEOC announced the launch of a public portal on November 1 to provide online access for individuals to request intake interviews, make appointments and track their charge information.

  • Acosta and Lipnic Share DOL and EEOC Priorities

    Date:
    October 18, 2017
    Type:
    News

    Secretary of Labor Acosta and EEOC Acting Chair Lipnic spoke at a presentation on employment and labor law regulations during the Association of Corporate Counsel's annual meeting in Washington, DC.

  • Religious Accommodation Handbook Statement: Illinois

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Illinois employers covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on religion should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Court Orders EEOC to Reconsider Wellness Program Fees

    Date:
    August 30, 2017
    Type:
    News

    A federal court has found EEOC rules allowing employers to increase healthcare insurance premiums of employees who do not participate in wellness programs to be arbitrary, and sent them back to the agency for reconsideration.

About This Topic

HR guidance on understanding the powers and responsibilities of the EEOC.