Is the EEOC Pursuing Discrimination Claims Too Aggressively?
For the Fiscal Year of 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) enforcement collections for victims of workplace discrimination totaled $372.1 million. The total number of claims was actually down from the three previous years, according to the agency’s FY 2013 Performance and Accountability Report. However, lawyers were able to garner more money than usual out of each claim they settled. The EEOC also reports that it has reduced its total claim processing time by 21 days, so it now takes an average of 261 days for a claim to make its way through to final resolution.
A potential concern for your small business clients about this report is that the EEOC is getting forceful in pursuing discrimination claims wherever they appear, and they seem to be going more after the smaller employers rather than large corporations. Experts point out that the EEOC does add value to society in that they prevent workplace discrimination; however they are concerned about the apparent aggressive nature of the agency.
The issue of criminal background checks is a good example of how far the EEOC’s reach can go. Recently the agency restated its previous guidance on hiring individuals with criminal records, limiting the use of criminal background check information in hiring for private and public sector employers. State governments, however, did not appreciate this. For example, the State of Texas says the EEOC’s actions requires employers in the state to hire felons, and “tramples on the state’s sovereign right to determine eligibility for critical state hires such as teachers, law enforcement officers, and those who work with the elderly.” It’s noted though that the EEOC did not dramatically change any of its policies; they just increased their enforcement activity.
According to research done by Human Resources group GeniusHR, there appear to be significant differences in enforcement priorities based on the types of actions reported by the EEOC at the local office level. In the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) directive, DIR 2013-02, the ongoing effects of the Strategic Enforcement Plan for PY 2013-2016 can be seen, and incorporates the EEOC guidance, giving new direction to employment offices and employers. GeniusHR recommends that employers of any size and level should review the EEOC Guidance and Strategic Plan, looking at its effects on their operations, and making sure they can withstand an audit.
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