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Employment Discrimination Blog

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EEOC Announces Its Enforcement Priorities for 2013-2016

Every four years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approves a Strategic Plan, which in part directs itself to develop a Strategic Enforcement Plan.  On December 17, 2012, the Commission approved the 2013-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan with bipartisan support and a vote of 3 to 1.

Much of the Strategic Enforcement Plan, frankly, is filled with the kinds of sweeping promises and legal jargon that one might expect from a government planning document.  However, one interesting area of the Strategic Enforcement Plan is the section on “national priorities.”  In this section, the EEOC identifies a handful of legal issues relating to illegal employment discrimination that it is better able to manage and address because the groups of affected individuals are so large or because the legal issues are so unsettled.  

Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring 
The EEOC plans to target recruiting and hiring policies that are either intentionally discriminatory or that appear to be neutral but have a greater adverse impact on protected groups of workers.  The EEOC named the following types of recruiting and hiring practices that it will examine: steering applicants into specific jobs based on race, sex, age, disability, etc.; restrictive application processes; and the use of screening tools like pre-employment tests, background checks, and date-of-birth inquiries.

Protecting the Rights of Immigrant and Migrant Workers
The EEOC stated a commitment to focus enforcement efforts on claims brought by immigrant and migrant workers, who – because of language and cultural barriers – are often unaware of their legal rights or reluctant to exercise their employment rights.

Emerging and Developing Issues
This is the most commented-on section of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.  The EEOC identified three emerging employment discrimination issues that it will keep a close eye on over the next four years:

  • Enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act, especially issues relating to who is covered, how a worker qualifies for a reasonable accommodation, how a business demonstrates that an accommodation is an undue hardship, and the definition of “direct threat”
  • Whether and how employers are required to respond to pregnancy-related requests for reasonable accommodations
  • Whether and how Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination may apply in certain cases to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered workers

 

Equal Pay for Women in the Workforce
Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, but the EEOC still considers enforcement of equal pay for equal work laws a high priority, especially in the form of compensation systems that appear neutral but have a greatly adverse impact on women.

Enforcing Anti-Retaliation Provisions
The EEOC is always on the lookout for employment policies and practices that discourage or prevent workers from exercising their employment rights.  The EEOC named the following policies as examples of illegal retaliation or obstruction: retaliatory actions against employees, overly broad waivers, settlement provisions that prohibit filing EEOC charges or assisting with an EEOC investigation, and failure to retain records required by EEOC regulations.

Preventing Harassment
According to the Strategic Enforcement Plan, sexual harassment in the workplace has been overtaken by other types of illegal harassment.  “Harassment claims based on race, ethnicity, religion, age and disability combined significantly outnumber even sexual harassment claims in the private and public sectors,” the plan stated.

 
 

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