The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcement of a number of federal employee protection statutes and regulations. Primarily, the EEOC is responsible for enforcing various anti-discrimination provisions, including prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of:
- Race / Color
- National Origin
- Genetic Information
This broad-based enforcement power derives from a variety of federal statutes. The EEOC is charged with enforcement of:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Certain sections of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Certain sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
The EEOC promulgates regulations pursuant to these federal non-discrimination statutes and provides guidance on compliance, in addition to retaining primary enforcement authority.
Prohibited Discrimination Practices
The clearest examples of workplace discrimination involve hiring and firing, or disadvantageous treatment based on a protected classification such as race, sex or religion. However, the prohibitions on discriminatory behavior extend far beyond those direct actions. Some common examples that many employers may be unaware of include:
- Job advertisements that discourage applications from a protected group
- Recruitment practices that are disadvantageous to a protected group
- A hostile work environment based on membership in a protected group
- Testing that adversely impacts a protected group without a bona fide purpose
- Failure to make reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee
Compliance is your best defense. Working with veteran labor and employment attorneys like the ones in our office will help ensure that your company fulfills its obligations under the federal anti-discrimination statutes. You will be far less likely to face a claim from an applicant or employee, and if a claim arises you will be able to respond with confidence, knowing that your procedures comply with the law and your documentation is in order.
The EEOC Process
When a claim is filed with the EEOC, the agency may begin an investigation. Some of the same allegations that could form the basis for an EEOC charge may also give rise to private lawsuits, but those actions generally cannot take place simultaneously. Rather, the EEOC will make a determination as to whether the agency intends to pursue the claim. If the EEOC decides against taking further action, it will typically issue the complainant a “right to sue” letter, meaning that the complainant may choose to file suit directly against the employer.
How your business responds during an EEOC investigation may mean the difference between a drawn-out, expensive process and a quick, relatively quiet resolution of the claims against your organization.
The first step will be to submit your Statement of Position. Though this may sound simple, it is extremely important that you respond specifically to each allegation and that you provide clear documentation where it is available. An experienced labor lawyer can help you ensure that your response is thorough and accurate and that you have properly supported your position.
You may also be asked to respond to a Request for Information (RFI) or even to agree to an on-site visit and make managers and other employees available for witness interviews. Often it is in the organization’s best interest to cooperate with these requests. However, few managers have the understanding of the law and EEOC practices necessary to effectively present the business’ side of the case during the investigation phase. Our attorneys can help.
When the EEOC has determined that the charge is valid and there are grounds to pursue further action, but the issues are not resolved at the investigation stage, the agency may opt to file a lawsuit against the charged organization.
The remedies available in an EEOC lawsuit vary somewhat depending upon the statute being enforced and the applicable regulations, but generally include both compensation to to the complainant and mandatory steps to rectify the discriminatory policies or procedures.
Get Legal Assistance with EEOC Charges
A knowledgeable labor and employment attorney can be your best resource when it comes to EEOC compliance and responding to charges. The best time to get assistance is before problems arise, when you have the opportunity to create policies and procedures and train your managers in a manner that will ensure compliance. The earlier you get expert guidance, the better. However, our experienced EEOC attorneys are prepared to assist at any stage of the proceedings, up to and including representation in an EEOC lawsuit.