EEOC Vote Approving Class-Based Initiatives: What Employers Need to Know

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Originally published in BANKING MATTERS - WINTER 2013.

After circulating a draft to the nation in September 2012, three of the four members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted to adopt the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”) on December 17, 2012. This plan is the most sweeping and significant development of the EEOC since its formation in 1965 under the Johnson administration. With the reelection of President Obama the previous month, the EEOC has now formally approved a plan for 2012 through 2016 that will rock the world of employers who have systemic, or class-wide practices that discriminate against protected workers.

Most significant is the EEOC’s plan to initiate investigative inquiries — in addition to investigating claims brought to the agency by an employee or rejected job applicant. The targets of the EEOC will include employers who publicly display a preference for certain races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or ability. The EEOC plans to trace these preferences to applicant screening and hiring practices; disparate pay and compensation practices; failures to accommodate the disabled; or work environments hostile to protected classes including (but not limited to) pregnant applicants and workers, migrant and immigrant workers, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) community.

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