[author: Beth Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor]
Judging from their recently released Performance and Accountability Report for the Fiscal Year 2012, the EEOC's message for employers could not be any clearer. It is of critical importance for employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and provide equal employment opportunities for employees regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin etc.
In the first report compiled under the EEOC's new Strategic Plan, the EEOC stated that it obtained the highest ever monetary recovery for discrimination victims in the private sector - $365.4 million. Approximately $36 million of this amount was obtained through voluntary settlements by employers. The EEOC also secured almost $62 million in relief for parties who requested hearings in the federal sector.
The report additionally shows a significant increase in the number of class action lawsuits for discriminatory practices affecting a large number of employees such as hiring and promotion discrimination against women and African-Americans, inflexible leave polices under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), discriminatory benefits policies under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), policies that discriminate against pregnant employees and English-only policies that discriminate based on national origin.
Over the course of 2012, the EEOC has also demonstrated that it is willing to lead in federal civil rights enforcement by issuing regulations and guidance on important issues such as the reasonable factor other than age (RFOA) defense in disparate impact discrimination lawsuits under the ADEA as well as the discriminatory use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions.
And, pursuant to its stated mission in the Strategic Plan, the EEOC has made clear it is and will continue to emphasize the need to address discrimination against vulnerable and migrant workers, provide reasonable accommodations and eliminate discrimination against pregnant women, and provide for equal pay in the workplace.
In light of these trends, as we approach 2013, it is essential for employers to vigilantly enforce their policies against discrimination harassment and retaliation and take affirmative steps to address and prevent unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Further, employers should be sure that all employees and supervisors are provided with equal employment opportunity and harassment training.
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