The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency which investigates all allegations of discrimination under federal law in the workplace. The EEOC recently released its annual fiscal year performance report. The report should serve as a warning to all employers that the EEOC is alive and well and intends to remain extremely aggressive in pursuing its agenda, investigating discrimination allegations and filing lawsuits against employers across the country.
The EEOC reported that in fiscal year 2013, the agency received more than 90,000 private sector discrimination charges, a slight decrease from the preceding year. However, the EEOC recovered over $370 Million during fiscal year 2013 in monetary relief from employers through mediation, conciliation and administrative enforcements. It appears that the EEOC will be even more active in 2014.
In its annual report, the EEOC indicates that its focus will be in six areas: 1) Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring; 2) Protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers; 3) Addressing emerging and developing issues; 4) Enforcing equal pay laws; 5) Preserving access to the legal system; and 6) Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach. In 2013, the EEOC filed 21 systemic lawsuits nationwide against employers after identifying patterns or practices that had broad impact on a region, industry or entire class of employees or job applicants. For instance, criminal background checks and credit checks by employers have come under extreme scrutiny by the EEOC in the last year and resulted in lawsuits being filed by the EEOC. It is also anticipated that the EEOC will focus additional attention in the upcoming year on the issue of whether pregnancy in and of itself is a disability under the ADA and therefore whether special accommodations must be provided by employers.
In the event your company is contacted by the EEOC, there are a few items which you should do immediately. First, request that your attorney become involved in the investigation and defense of the EEOC charge. Some employers have attempted to handle the EEOC investigation on their own and the results have been catastrophic. Please remember that the EEOC’s responsibility is to employees and not employers. Secondly, you should immediately notify your insurance company of the EEOC charge to determine whether you have coverage for the EEOC complaint. Failure to notify the insurance company on a timely basis may result in the insurance company refusing to defend the claim. Thirdly, if the EEOC charge has been made by a current employee, take immediate action to ensure that no retaliation occurs to that employee. Retaliation claims are some of the most problematic claims brought by employees and the EEOC.
Employment claims continue to generate exposure and expenses for all employers throughout our country. Rest assured that as we enter 2014, the EEOC has served notice that it will continue to aggressively monitor and investigate employment issues and file suit against employers to achieve its areas of focus.Back to news