What Is the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  is a federal agency responsible for administrating and enforcing employment-related anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC investigates complaints lodged against companies accused of discrimination and pursues legal cases on behalf of workers.

 

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A brief history of the EEOC

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Important laws and acts that have shaped the EEOC and anti-discrimination practices in the workplace include:

 

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963: The Equal Pay Act was initially enforced by the Department of Labor. It is aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender. 
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: In addition to establishing the EEOC, Title VII protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and religion.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: This act protects against discrimination based on age and requires equal benefits for employees over 40.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973: The Rehabilitation Act barred discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It includes a legal framework for seeking remedies and allocating legal costs resulting from related lawsuits.
  • Pregnancy discrimination act 1976: This act provided protections for mothers who were discriminated against based on reasons related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals as a result of disabilities in both public and private institutions. 
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991: This act provided the right to trial by jury on discrimination claims, introduced the possibility of emotional distress damages and limited the amounts that a jury could award. It added provisions to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, expanding the rights of women to sue and collect compensatory and punitive damages for sexual discrimination or harassment.
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: This act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.

Using these laws to support their cases, the EEOC has argued on behalf of workers ranging from individual single-worker cases to major Supreme Court Decisions for over five decades. 

 

If an employee files an EEOC claim

The EEOC seeks fair resolutions with businesses and advises that even if an employer feels that an employee’s claim does not have merit, the employer can help with the expedition of claims by providing information and assistance when requested.  

 

  • Factual assessment: Employers can present factual assessments of their position and demonstrate that the business has operated within regulations and guidelines.
  • EEOC Investigation: The EEOC may send a Request for Information (RFI) to the employer requesting copies of personnel policies and the personnel file of the employee making the charge. The EEOC may also request an on-site visit. And, the employer may be asked to provide contact information of other employees for witness interviews. A representative of the employer may be present during interviews with management personnel, but EEOC investigators can conduct interviews of non-management level employees without the presence or permission of the business.
  • Employee’s claim: When the EEOC investigates claims by an employee, they provide the business with full documentation of the employee’s accusations against the company. This provides the business with the opportunity to provide a comprehensive defense with its statement.

Regardless of the outcome, the process can help employers identify and change policies or actions in order to create a more welcoming work culture. 

 

Related: How to Manage Employees

 

EEOC FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the EEOC:

How can I ensure I am supporting a non-discriminatory workplace?

 

  1. Hire, fire, promote, pay, train, discipline and make other work-related decisions fairly. Race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or genetic information should not be a factor in these practices. 
  2. Develop a strong anti-discrimination policy and enforce it.
  3. Ensure that employees understand their rights and responsibilities at work. 
  4. Prevent, address and cease harassment or discrimination in your workplace.
  5. Ensure that employees are not punished for reporting discrimination, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or opposing discrimination.
  6. Obtain an “Equal Employment Opportunity” poster and display visibly at your business.
  7. Keep employment records as required by law.
  8. Ensure you learn and fulfill your responsibilities as an employer. Some may be dependent on the number of employees under your employ, so take the time to learn and understand your obligations.
  9. Contact the EEOC for assistance, information or training. 

How does the EEOC benefit employers?

Although the EEOC advocates for workers, businesses benefit from its protections. With a more level playing field and diversity in hiring practices, it creates opportunities for the best ideas to rise to the top. Companies that embrace principles defended by the EEOC are more likely to hire the most qualified employees, and in turn, improve their businesses.  

 

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