Faced with a rising caseload and shrinking resources, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a draft strategic enforcement plan that calls for bringing cases with the broadest possible impact and eliminating systemic barriers in recruitment and hiring.
The EEOC has asked the public for comments on the plan, which it says will shift the “enforcement paradigm from complaint-driven to priority-driven.”
First on the list of the EEOC’s nationwide priorities is employer hiring practices. “The EEOC will target class-based intentional hiring discrimination and facially neutral hiring practices that adversely impact particular groups,” the plan states.
The agency says that racial and ethnic minorities, older workers, women and people with disabilities continue to face discrimination when job hunting due to “restrictive application processes and the use of screening tools.”
Notably, the EEOC mentions the potentially problematic use of “background screens.” In April, the agency released new guidelines on the use of criminal background checks as part of the hiring process. The agency also has a case pending against the Freeman Companies that challenges the use of credit checks as a screening tool.
According to the draft plan, the EEOC is best suited to bring such cases. “Because of the access EEOC has to obtain data and documents and potential evidence of discrimination in recruitment and hiring, the EEOC is better situated to address these issues than individuals or private attorneys who have difficulties obtaining such information.”
The plan was developed by the commission with input from a working group consisting of district and headquarters staff, led by Chair Jacqueline Berrien, General Counsel P. David Lopez, and Memphis District Director Katharine Kores.
In a September 5 Tweet, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, who leads the plan’s Performance Measurement Group, wrote, “This is NOT the final plan. So please comment. I will read every comment.”
The EEOC also lists protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers as a priority. “The EEOC will target disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, trafficking and discriminatory language policies affecting these vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under the equal employment laws, or reluctant or unable to exercise them,” according to the plan.
In addition, several emerging legal issues were flagged for attention. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, “particularly coverage issues, and the proper application of ADA defenses, such as undue hardship, direct threat, and business necessity,”; coverage under Title VII sex discrimination provisions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; and accommodating pregnancy leave.
The EEOC also pledged to “re-evaluate our strategies to be more effective” in combatting workplace harassment.
In 2011, EEOC received nearly 100,000 charges of discrimination. Of those, 85,463 charges were filed against private employers and 14,484 were filed against state and local government employers, according to the agency.
Public comments are due by Sept. 18, and can be submitted to email@example.com. The commission plans to vote on the draft plan by the end of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.