The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued a draft of its new 4-year strategic plan that is scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2012. While the strategic plan doesn’t tell us exactly which cases the EEOC will find most important (and specific facts will generally determine the likelihood of the EEOC investigating a claim and taking enforcement action), the strategic plan paints a picture of the broad goals the EEOC has for the next 4 years, as follows:
- · Eliminate systemic barriers to recruitment and hiring;
- · Protect groups that are perceived to be unable to help themselves, such as immigrants and others that may be reluctant to enforce (or unaware of) their rights;
- · Address emerging issues as they develop, such as enforcing recent changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act, addressing issues involving lesbians, gays, bisexual and transsexual workers, and requiring employers to accommodate pregnant workers who may have been forced to take unpaid leave due to pregnancy complications;
- · Preserving access to the legal system by protecting against retaliation and prohibiting certain terms in settlement agreements such as terms preventing EEOC filings and preventing cooperation with EEOC investigations; and
- · Generally addressing various types of harassment.
The strategic plan calls for not only investigation and enforcement where claims are made that fall within these priorities, but also for nationwide educational outreach to try to prevent the targeted types of discrimination from occurring. Employers should seek the assistance of counsel to revise employment policies where needed to make them consistent with the EEOC’s four-year plan. This proactive step may protect an employer against the possibility of becoming an EEOC enforcement target, while increasing the likelihood that workers’ rights will be protected.
The analysis set forth in this article is provided for general understanding only and should not be considered legal advice. Counsel should always be consulted for advice regarding a specific situation.