On September 21, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published its strategic enforcement plan for fiscal years (FY) 2024 to 2028 in the Federal Register. The plan extends the agency’s focus to these additional areas:
- Expanding the vulnerable and underserved worker priority to include workers unaware of their rights under equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, reluctant or unable to exercise their legally protected rights, or who have historically been underserved;
- Updating developing issues to include protecting workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; employment discrimination associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19 symptoms; and technology-related employment discrimination;
- Highlighting the continued underrepresentation of women and workers of color in certain industries and sectors;
- Recognizing employers’ increasing use of technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to target job advertisements, recruit applicants, and make or assist in hiring and other employment decisions; and
- Preserving access to the legal system by addressing overly broad waivers, releases, nondisclosure agreements, or nondisparagement agreements when they restrict workers’ ability to obtain remedies for civil rights violations.
EEOC finalizes 2022-2026 strategic plan
On August 22, the EEOC announced the immediate implementation of its 2022-2026 strategic plan. The strategic plan serves as a framework for achieving the EEOC’s mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal employment opportunity for all. The plan also sets forth its vision of fair and inclusive workplaces with equal opportunity for all.
To accomplish this mission and advance the agency’s vision, the strategic plan outlines the EEOC’s strategic goals and objectives to:
- Combat and prevent employment discrimination through the strategic application of the EEOC’s law enforcement authorities;
- Prevent employment discrimination and advance equal employment opportunities through education and outreach; and
- Strive for organizational excellence through its people, practices, and technology.
Highlights of the new strategic plan include:
- Increased focus on systemic discrimination;
- Improved monitoring of conciliation agreements to ensure workplaces are free from discrimination after the EEOC makes a finding of discrimination;
- Enhanced intake services to potential charging parties, respondents, and representatives;
- Leverage technology and innovative outreach strategies to expand the agency’s reach to diverse populations, vulnerable communities, and small, new, and disadvantaged or underserved employers; and
- Promote promising practices that employers can adopt to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
EEOC announces opening EEO-1 portal
The EEOC announced that the EEO-1 report data collection will open on Tuesday, October 31. The online filer support message center will also be available beginning on the same day to assist filers with any inquiries they might have. The deadline to file 2022 EEO-1 Component 1 report is Tuesday, December 5, 2023. Interestingly, the EEO-1 report has only been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for one year rather than the usual three years.
Thousands of antiabortion comments submitted on PWFA regulations
Thousands of prewritten statements against abortion have flooded the EEOC’s request for comments on its proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations, representing 16,000 of the nearly 17,500 comments submitted so far.
Harassment guidance submitted to OMB
On August 25, the EEOC submitted its harassment guidance to OMB for review. The guidance—“Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace”—is pending regulatory review at OMB. In January 2017, the EEOC had unveiled a 75-page update to its guidance on harassment, asking for public comment. It was never finalized, stalling during the Trump administration. Both EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows and Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels had stressed that updated harassment guidance was a priority, especially after #MeToo, the pandemic, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock.
EEOC, DOL sign enforcement agreement
The EEOC and the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which they stated was to enhance and maximize the enforcement of federal laws and regulations. According to the EEOC’s press release, the MOU formalizes and increases coordination between the agencies through information sharing, joint investigations, training, and outreach. The document outlines procedures to be followed by both the EEOC and WHD as they together elevate workplace justice issues of mutual interest across the country.
Recent enforcement activity
Werner Enterprises owes deaf worker $35M. A jury in Nebraska upheld the EEOC’s lawsuit against Werner Enterprises, finding the company discriminated against a deaf truck driver applicant because of his disability and awarded him $$75,000 in emotional damages and $36M in punitive damages.
Hooters to pay $650K to end race discrimination claim. A Hooters franchisee agreed to pay $650,000 to settle litigation alleging it allowed racial harassment and refused to reinstate Black workers after a layoff.
Chipotle to pay $400K over sexual harassment claim. Chipotle agreed to pay $400,000 to settle an EEOC complaint that it failed to stop a sexual assault, groping, and harassment of female employees on the job in Sammamish, Washington.