The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published new resources for employers to help them identify and address systemic discrimination in the workplace.
“The EEOC is strongly committed to making our processes fully transparent and useful to the public,” said EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon. “Systemic enforcement is an important mechanism the commission uses to remedy discrimination that has broad impacts on industries, professions or geographic areas. It is vital that the public knows how we use this tool.”
The EEOC enforces federal discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
We’ve rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.
Focus on Transparency
Systemic discrimination cases involve “pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic location,” according to the EEOC. Through its new webpage, the agency’s goal is to “provide transparency about how the commission approaches systemic discrimination enforcement efforts.” The page provides information about how the EEOC defines systemic discrimination and initiates and handles a systemic case.
The EEOC included several examples of policies and practices that may lead to systemic discrimination charges. For instance, job postings that ask for recent graduates or young and energetic applicants may show systemic age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. A company policy refusing to rehire retired workers may also lead to a systemic bias claim. Thus, businesses should diversify their recruiting and hiring strategies.
Consistency in the Field
The agency’s new webpage provides helpful guidance for employers and also instructs EEOC field staff on how to identify and resolve issues with systemic discrimination. The agency’s recent focus on transparency may improve consistency among field offices.
Security Service Company Settles Bias Case for $1.6 Million
Systemic discrimination claims can be costly for employers. A Virginia-based security services company recently agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle an EEOC lawsuit claiming systemic national-origin discrimination and retaliation. The agency alleged that a project manager who oversaw a security staff of about 400 employees complained that there were “too many Africans,” mocked workers’ accents and threatened to fire them. The company didn’t admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to settle the claims and take other corrective measures. “Employees are entitled to work in an environment free of offensive or derogatory remarks about their birthplace, ethnicity, culture, language or foreign accent,” said EEOC Assistant General Counsel Maria Salacuse. “Combating systemic harassment in the workplace remains a priority for the EEOC.”
EEOC Approves Final Rule Revising Conciliation Procedures
On Jan. 7, the EEOC approved a final rule to update its conciliation program and encourage employers to voluntarily resolve employment discrimination charges. Under the final rule, the EEOC must provide employers with certain information, including whether the matter has been designated as a systemic, class, or “pattern or practice” claim. Dhillon noted that employers decline to participate in conciliation in about one-third of the cases where reasonable cause for a discrimination charge is found. The updates are meant to raise the number of successful conciliations by creating greater accountability and transparency in the process.