The EEOC Sets its Path Forward

Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Discrimination/Employment | 0 comments

The EEOC Sets its Path Forward

 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing laws that make workplace discrimination and harassment based upon a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age or disability illegal. In early 2012, the EEOC approved its strategic plan for 2012-2016.  Through this plan, the EEOC outlined three major goals: (1) combat employment discrimination through strategic law enforcement so that there is a broad impact on reducing employment discrimination at the national and local levels; (2) prevent employment discrimination through education and outreach; and (3) deliver excellent and consistent service through a skilled and diverse workforce.

Particularly noteworthy, is the EEOC’s first goal of using strategic law enforcement with the intent of creating a widespread impact on discrimination across the country.  To achieve this goal, the EEOC is focusing its enforcement and litigation efforts on systemic discrimination cases.    Systemic cases are those in which the employment policy or practice has a broad impact on an industry, occupation, business or geographic area.  Examples of systemic practices include creating barriers for disabled individuals through use of unlawful pre-employment inquiries and age discrimination through reductions in force.  In short, systemic practices are those that have the potential to affect many individuals, rather than a single act of discrimination effecting only one person.

Although the EEOC continues to investigate and prosecute all forms of unlawful employment discrimination, its stated goal to focus on systemic cases is evident.  As an example, Verizon Communications was recently required to pay $20 Million to settle a nationwide disability discrimination case filed by the EEOC.  Through the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that Verizon Communications unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employee and disciplined or fired them under a “no fault” attendance plan.  Specifically, the EEOC challenged the “no fault” attendance plan because it was inflexible and failed to make exceptions for individuals whose absences were caused by their disability.

In other examples of the EEOC’s increased focus on systemic litigation, the EEOC recently filed nationwide class actions against Mavis Discount Tire alleging gender discrimination; Texas Roadhouse alleging age discrimination; and Bass Pro Outdoor World alleging the company engaged in a pattern and practice of failing to hire African-American and Hispanic applicants.    These are but a few examples, and by all indications the EEOC can be expected to continue is proactive approach for the foreseeable future.

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