Career and Jobs

EEOC Releases Strategic Enforcement Plan 2024-2028: Navigating New Horizons In Workplace Equality

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has unveiled its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for Fiscal Years 2024-2028 to further fair and inclusive workplaces. The SEP aims to coordinate the EEOC’s efforts over multiple years to advance equal employment opportunities. It builds upon prior plans, incorporating public input and reaffirming the EEOC’s mission.

The EEOC’s comprehensive plan emphasizes three guiding principles: A Strategic Approach, An Integrated Approach, and Accountability and Delivery of Results.

A Strategic Approach

The EEOC aims to maximize its effectiveness by concentrating on activities with significant strategic impact. The plan involves influencing the development of laws and promoting compliance across large organizations, regions, or industries. The focus includes systemic investigations, resolutions, and lawsuits, which often broadly impact employment practices. The SEP balances individual and systemic cases and national and local issues to achieve strategic impact.

The SEP outlines several subject matter priorities, consisting of:

  1. Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, including using technology that excludes protected groups, discouraging job advertisements, channeling individuals based on protected characteristics, limiting access to training opportunities, and more. It also addresses the underrepresentation of women and workers of color in specific industries.
  2. Protecting vulnerable workers and underserved communities by addressing harassment, retaliation, job segregation, labor trafficking, discriminatory pay, and disparate working conditions affecting vulnerable workers and underserved communities. The SEP identifies explicitly immigrant workers, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and others who may be unaware of their rights or reluctant to exercise them as targets.
  3. Prioritizing emerging or developing issues such as discrimination against individuals with disabilities, protecting workers affected by pregnancy and related medical conditions, addressing discrimination influenced by global events, discrimination associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19, and technology-related employment discrimination, such as that derived from artificial intelligence and employment decisions.
  4. Advancing equal pay for all workers, specifically combating pay discrimination based on sex, other protected bases, and at their intersection. It includes addressing policies that impede equal pay.
  5. Preserving access to the legal system, in particular, addressing policies and practices limiting rights under employment discrimination statutes, such as overly broad waivers, non-disclosure agreements, unlawful mandatory arbitration provisions, inadequate record-keeping by employers, and retaliatory practices that deter employees from exercising their rights.
  6. Combating harassment, including sexual harassment, based on various protected characteristics. The SEP prioritizes enforcement and promotes comprehensive anti-harassment programs.

The strategic approach to enforcement involves directing attention and resources to specific SEP priorities, aiming to influence employer practices positively, ensure legal compliance, prevent unlawful employment practices, clarify laws, and advance the agency’s mission. Proactive efforts, including Commissioner Charges and directed investigations, will be employed to address SEP priority issues.

An Integrated Approach

The EEOC is committed to an integrated enforcement approach, operating as one national law enforcement agency while recognizing regional priorities. The SEP notes collaboration, coordination, and consistency among EEOC offices, staff, and program areas are crucial. This approach extends beyond the EEOC, acknowledging shared responsibility with entities like the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), Tribal Employment Rights Offices (TEROs), and the private bar. The EEOC believes coordination across federal, state, local, and Tribal partners is vital to advancing shared missions and expanding outreach to jobseekers, workers, and employers.

Accountability and Delivery of Results

In the SEP, the EEOC acknowledges its responsibility to the public it serves. The SEP notes that accountability involves efficiently and effectively using resources to enforce workplace discrimination laws, provide timely, consistent, high-quality service, and support those in need. The EEOC reiterates its dedication to achieving results and serving the public while recognizing resource constraints within the SEP and commits its program offices to semi-annual reporting on information related to the SEP’s priorities, including outreach, litigation, and federal sector activities.

Impact to Employers

The EEOC’s new SEP extends an olive branch to employers, urging them to proactively identify and dismantle barriers to equal employment opportunity, cultivate diverse talent pools, and foster inclusive workspaces. EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows, emphasizing the plan’s significance, remarked, “Through the SEP’s effective implementation, the agency will continue to advance equality and justice for all in workplaces across this nation, even as significant challenges remain.” For employers, the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan provides a roadmap for creating workplaces where diversity thrives, discrimination withers, and opportunities are boundless.

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