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Dec 2013
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December 02, 2013

EEOC Identifies National Priorities


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate in employment. Employers covered by these laws cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. These laws also prohibit retaliation for making a complaint or participating in an investigation. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by these laws – or 20 employees in the case of age discrimination. The four most common complaints to the EEOC are retaliation, race discrimination, sex discrimination and disability discrimination.

Like most entities, the EEOC must decide how to allocate its resources. The EEOC has now identified its nationwide priorities.

Eliminating systemic barriers in recruitment and hiring.
 
The EEOC will look for unlawful class-based hiring decisions, such as employers refusing to hire women for certain jobs because the work is “too physical.” The EEOC will also scrutinize policies that deny employment based on criminal convictions without a showing that the employer considered the nature of the crime, how long ago the crime occurred and the relationship of the crime to the job. In the EEOC’s view, blanket prohibitions such as a refusal to hire anyone with a felony conviction fall unfairly on minorities and therefore may be discriminatory.  Texas has decided to take the gloves off, though, and has filed suit against the EEOC claiming that the state does not have to comply with the agency’s guidance on categorical bans on hiring criminals.

Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers.

The EEOC will look for situations in which immigrant and migrant workers are paid less or provided lesser benefits than other employees doing similar work. The EEOC will also be looking for policies that segregate these employees from other staff, such as separate and lesser break room facilities. The EEOC is especially concerned with the trafficking of these employees by organizations that provide labor to industries such as agriculture.

Addressing Emerging Issues.

The EEOC has identified three emerging social issues: (1) application of the ADA amendments, especially coverage issues and employer defenses to reasonable accommodation claims, (2) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and (3) pregnancy accommodation claims.

Preserving Access to the Legal System.

The EEOC continues to be concerned with retaliation by employers against complaining employees. The EEOC also will pursue employers who fail to maintain proper employee records, which are needed by the EEOC to prove discrimination.

Combating Harassment.
 
The EEOC will continue to aggressively pursue harassment complaints. These include not just sex harassment complaints, but also those alleging harassment based on race, religion, national origin or disability.

How will the EEOC pursue these priorities? First, charges of discrimination that fall within these nationwide priorities will be given special attention. This can include the filing of lawsuits by the EEOC. Special attention will be given to systemic cases where there is a broad impact on an industry or geographic region.  For example, if it was general practice in a particular industry not to permit women to perform certain work, the EEOC would likely find that an attractive issue for enforcement.

Although each employer’s situation may be different, three primary areas merit immediate concern:

Hiring Policies and Practices.

Criminal conviction policies and the use of pre-employment testing should be reviewed to insure compliance with EEOC guidelines.

Pay Practices.

Pay practice that may unfairly impact women or minorities should be reviewed and addressed.

Harassment Policies.

Employers should insure that their policies are up-to-date. Further, employers should insure that harassment complaints are promptly and thoroughly investigated and resolved.

What should employers do?

Although each employer’s situation may be different, three primary areas merit immediate concern:

Hiring policies and practices.

Criminal conviction policies and the use of pre-employment testing should be reviewed to insure compliance with EEOC guidelines.

Pay practices.

Pay practice that may unfairly impact women or minorities should be reviewed and addressed.

Harassment policies.

Employers should insure that their policies are up-to-date. Further, employers should insure that harassment complaints are promptly and thoroughly investigated and resolved.

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