The EEOC, or Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, is the government agency vested with the authority to enforce anti-discrimination legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The EEOC currently maintains an advisory and investigatory role, issuing guidance to employers on the meaning of anti-discrimination legislation and investigating allegations of discriminatory behavior to identify and take action against employers who violate the law. Like all administrative agencies, the EEOC must develop and post a strategic plan every four fiscal years. This means that the EEOC is now working on a draft of its 2012-2016 plan.
The EEOC Revised Plan
Based on the current proposed EEOC draft, it is clear that the agency intends to take a more proactive role in curbing discriminatory behavior. The EEOC has long taken a relatively passive stance, although there have been indications that is changing for a while. The statisics for 2011, in fact, show that the year was a record one for both the number of discrimination charges filed and the amount of damages recovered from employers. The new plan puts into writing the EEOC’s new and more aggressive stance, instituting changes such as:
- Policies for fighting discrimination through law enforcement
- A plan for increased anti-discrimination education and for more outreach programs
- A plan to make it easier for the public to obtain EEOC services.
Employers need to be aware that the EEOC is increasing enforcement tactics and efforts and should take a moment to read the new plan in full to understand what types of changes are expected.
The important thing to remember is that it is your obligation to avoid not only overt discrimination, but also practices that can be viewed as discriminatory. To avoid potential allegations of discrimination by the EEOC:
- Maintain a clear anti-discrimination policy and hiring policy that promotes equal opportunity employment
- Provide anti-discrimination training at all levels and be sure managers and employees understand the legal implications of discriminatory behavior
- Review screening practices and pre-hiring qualifications to ensure that none are having a discriminatory effect
- Take great care in performance reviews and put everything in writing in case you need documentation to prove why employment decisions were made.
By being proactive yourself to avoid discrimination, you can avoid any potential problems with the new and more proactive EEOC plan.