The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016. The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. As part of its new strategic plan, the EEOC adopted the following as national enforcement priorities:
1. Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring. The EEOC will target class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities.
2. Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers. The EEOC will target disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, trafficking and discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under the equal employment laws, or reluctant or unable to exercise them.
3. Addressing Emerging and Developing Issues. The EEOC will target emerging issues in equal employment law, including issues associated with significant events, demographic changes, developing theories, new legislation, judicial decisions and administrative interpretations.
4. Enforcing Equal Pay Laws. The EEOC will target compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender.
5. Preserving Access to the Legal System. The EEOC will target policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts.
6. Preventing Harassment Through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach. The EEOC will pursue systemic investigations and litigation and conduct a targeted outreach campaign to deter harassment in the workplace.
The EEOC’s plan is an important reminder to employers that it intends to be aggressive in enforcing the anti-discrimination laws under its power (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, etc.). Employers should ensure that their policies, procedures, and employee handbooks are up to date and compliant with the various state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Also, on a regular basis, employers should make certain that their hiring, employment and termination practices are consistent with the EEOC’s interpretation and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. Should you have questions or wish to discuss your company’s employment practices, please contact the members of Thompson Burton’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution team.