Employers Beware: EEOC Making New Strategic Plan

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking comment through February 1 on a four-year strategic plan, and it’s important for employers to know what that plan means to them.

The draft of the 2012-2016 plan calls for the agency to:

  • fight employment discrimination through law enforcement;
  • prevent discrimination through education and outreach; and
  • improve delivery of services to the public.

The finalized strategic plan is to be a foundation for more detailed annual plans. The EEOC is developing the strategic plan at a time when it’s showing signs of increased enforcement efforts. A look at EEOC statistics shows 2011 was a record year in the number of charges filed and money the agency recovered.

Amy M. McLaughlin of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., in Burlington, Vermont, issued a warning to employers in an article in the January issue of Vermont Employment Law Letter: “The EEOC is no longer taking a passive, conciliatory approach with employers.  Rather, it is acting more aggressively, and you can expect it to continue doing so throughout 2012.”

McLaughlin advises employers to take steps to prevent discrimination and retaliation charges. She suggests that employers:

  • Review, evaluate, and educate employees on the employer’s equal employment policies. It’s especially important to provide supervisors with in-depth training on legal obligations.
  • Review hiring practices. The EEOC is on the lookout for systemic discrimination. McLaughlin suggests eliminating any screening prohibitions on unemployed applicants and screening criteria not specifically job-related and consistent with business needs.
  • Carefully document performance counseling since documentation is the best defense against discrimination charges.
  • Take internal discrimination complaints seriously and carefully conduct investigations.

Every four fiscal years, Congress requires executive departments, government corporations, and independent agencies to develop and post a strategic plan. Those plans direct the agency’s work and guide detailed annual plans, budgets, and program performance information. The EEOC is currently operating under the strategic plan for fiscal years 2007-2012 as modified in July 2008.

A statement from the EEOC says the plan was created by work groups made up of staff from EEOC headquarters and field offices. The agency now is soliciting comments “from our public partners, including advocacy groups and individuals.”

Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. Eastern time on February 1 at or by mail to Office of the Chair, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, NE, Washington, DC 20507.