Ending Workplace Discrimination
On October 17, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) unveiled its updated Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2017-2021. This plan replaces the first Strategic Enforcement Plan (a.k.a. SEP) which was issued in 2012. According to the EEOC announcement, the new SEP “builds on the EEOC's progress in addressing persistent and developing issues by sharpening the agency's areas of focus and updating the plan to recognize additional areas of emerging concern.”
Continued Focus On Achieving “Strategic Impact” Through Litigation
The new SEP continues the focus of the first, which was highlighted by “systemic litigation” that leads to cases that have a “strategic impact”. EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang commented on this focus by stating, “The solid foundation laid by the Commission's first SEP positions the EEOC to concentrate on coordinating strategies and solutions for these core areas to ensure freedom from workplace discrimination.” This strategy has been previously defined by working on cases or activities that have a significant effect on the development of the law, or on promoting compliance across a large organization, community, or industry.
Priorities of the First SEP
The EEOC's first SEP set out six priorities that the Commission identified to define its enforcement mission for Fiscal Years 2013-2016. Those priorities were chosen to put the enforcement focus on issues that would affect a broad number of individuals, employers, or employment practices, with a special emphasis on issues affecting the most vulnerable workers–those who may be unaware, reluctant, or unable to exercise their rights. The updated SEP keeps the same six priorities as the first SEP, including:
- Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring;
- Protecting vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers, and under served communities from discrimination;
- Addressing selected emerging and developing issues;
- Ensuring equal pay protections for all workers;
- Preserving access to the legal system; and
- Preventing systemic harassment.
Changes Within The Enforcement Priorities
The most substantive changes are described by the EEOC as additional “areas of focus” within those same six enforcement priorities. For example, within the “emerging and developing issues” priority, the EEOC identified several areas of focus, many of which have already been the subject of extensive EEOC litigation under the 2012 SEP. For example, the new SEP identifies pregnancy-related limitations under the ADA and LGBT protections as substantive areas of focus under this topic, both of which have been litigated over the past few years.
Two new “emerging and developing issues” that were identified in the 2017 SEP also cover “complex employment relationships” and “backlash discrimination”. For the former, the agency is interested in “[c]larifying the employment relationship and the application of workplace civil rights protections in light of the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures, including temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy.” In other words, the EEOC's targets include new gig economy companies and those prone of joint employer relationships. The EEOC also has made it a priority to address “backlash discrimination” against those who are Muslim or Sikh, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian descent, as well as persons perceived to be members of these groups, that might arise against them as a result of current events affecting the Muslim world.
California Employment Law
To discuss other areas of focus within the EEOC's recently updated Strategic Enforcement Plan, or any of California's employment related laws such as workplace discrimination, feel free to contact the California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free, (888) 500-8469, or contact our employment lawyers via email.