News & Insights

No Summer Break for Employers – EEOC Touts Progress against Systemic Discrimination
July 11, 2016
by Brett Hummer

 

South Bend / Mishawaka – Marking the 10th anniversary of its 2006 Systemic Task Force Report, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on July 7, 2016 published a review of its “Systemic Program” (the “Report”).  The Report touts the EEOC’s successes over the past ten (10) years and claims “substantial progress” has been made over the past decade to remove discrimination which affects large groups of workers.

The EEOC defines “systemic discrimination” as a pattern, practice, policy and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic location.  Systemic discrimination typically affects large numbers of employees or applicants directly impacted by a policy or practice, but the EEOC notes that its systemic investigations and litigation do not necessarily require large numbers of affected employees.  Systemic cases or investigations by the EEOC seek to dismantle employer practices and policies that discriminate based on disability, sex, race, retaliation, age, national origin, and religion.  All employers, regardless of size or industry, should be ever vigilant with respect to their policies to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity laws and to avoid being a target of the EEOC.

Indeed, the EEOC’s “successes”, of course, have been and continue to be a wake-up call to employers across the country.  What cannot be overstated is that this is not your parents’ EEOC.  The EEOC is bigger, bolder, and more organized (coordinating with its own offices and other federal agencies) than ever before.  But don’t take my word for it – here is some of what the EEOC says in its Report:

  • “EEOC now has the capacity to investigate and litigate systemic cases in every district. Investments in staffing, training, and technology have built this capacity and resulted in a 250 percent increase in systemic investigations in the past five years.”
  • “Coordination of systemic investigations and cases has significantly increased, with staff regularly sharing information and strategies on systemic cases and partnering across offices on lawsuits.”
  • “. . . EEOC tripled the success rate for conciliation of systemic matters from 21 percent to 64 percent over the past decade and EEOC’s litigation program has achieved a remarkable 94 success rate in its systemic cases over the past 10 years.”
  • “EEOC tripled the amount of monetary relief recovered for victims in the past five fiscal years . . . compared to the relief recovered in the first five years after the Systemic Task Force Report.”

The Report concludes with the EEOC’s plans moving forward to build off of its Systemic Program to eliminate persistent and emerging barriers to opportunity in the workplace.  The Report indicates the EEOC’s focus in the future will be on implementing national strategies to address persistent and emerging systemic issues; advancing solutions that promote lasting opportunity in the workplace; and strengthening the agency’s technology and infrastructure.

The full Report can be accessed here:  https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/systemic/review/

In the meantime, employers should be taking notice of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts and take proactive steps to ensure their policies and practices comply with the laws the EEOC enforces, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”).

The content of this article is for informational purposes only, and does not contain, nor should be construed as containing, legal advice.

 

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