The EEOC Identifies New Enforcement Priorities

Clifford Geiger
Clifford Geiger

The EEOC takes a targeted approach to enforcement.  This enables EEOC staff focus more of their attention and the agency’s resources on a common set of priorities, presumably with more success and change for the better.  The EEOC tells everyone what types of cases have its attention and where enforcement efforts will be focused.

On October 17, 2016, the EEOC approved a new strategic enforcement plan for the Fiscal Years 2017 through 2021.  The new plan updated emerging issues of concern.  The EEOC’s first new priority is clarifying the application of workplace civil rights protections in light of the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures, with specific focus on temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy.  The Commission also added focus on backlash discrimination against those who are Muslim or Sikh, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, as well as persons perceived to be members of these groups.  The addition of these new enforcement priorities means it is likely the EEOC will be more likely to aggressively pursue and file lawsuits on behalf of individuals included within the identified groups of workers.

Other emerging and developing enforcement priorities, identified in the agency’s previous plans, already included:  (a) Qualification standards and inflexible leave policies the discriminate against people with disabilities; (b) Accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; and (c) Protecting LGBT people from discrimination based on sex.  Lawsuits filed by the EEOC on behalf of LGBT individuals, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are examples of how the agency pursued these priorities.

The EEOC’s new plan largely retains the other general enforcement priorities established in the agency’s plan for Fiscal Years 2013-2016.  These were: (a) Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring; (b) Protecting vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers, and under-served communities from discrimination; (c) Ensuring equal pay for all workers; (d) Preserving access to the legal system; and (e) Preventing systemic harassment.


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