Periodically, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) lets us know what to watch out for. On September 21, the EEOC released its Strategic Enforcement Plan for years 2024-2028 (“SEP”), which tells us where the federal government is prioritizing its employment dollars.
The EEOC has more work than it can timely handle. Thus, it prioritizes the types of claims that align with its priorities. The SEP tells us what claims to pay attention to and what compliance actions companies need to check for compliance with current laws.
So, what are the EEOC’s top priorities?
- Targeting discrimination, bias, and hate directed against religious minorities (including antisemitism and Islamophobia), racial or ethnic groups, and LGBTQI+ individuals.
- Updating the emerging and developing issues priority to include protecting workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including under the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and other EEO laws; employment discrimination associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19 symptoms; and technology-related employment discrimination.
- Highlighting the continued underrepresentation of women and workers of color in certain industries and sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, finance, tech and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
- Expanding the vulnerable and underserved worker priority to include additional categories of workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, may be reluctant or unable to exercise their legally protected rights, or have historically been underserved by federal employment discrimination protections.
- Recognizing employers’ increasing use of technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to target job advertisements, recruit applicants, and make or assist in hiring and other employment decisions.
- Preserving access to the legal system by addressing overly broad waivers, releases, non-disclosure agreements, or non-disparagement agreements when they restrict workers’ ability to obtain remedies for civil rights violations.
What does this mean for HR Folks?
HR professionals should check your company’s current policies to be sure you have full-strength anti-discrimination practices that comply with the federal, state and local laws in which your Company operates. You should review the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and related regulations and keep up on emerging legal trends related to AI. Be sure to check your employment and severance agreement forms for compliance with the latest federal, state, and local guidance. And finally, consult your friendly employment counsel to avoid claims and charges before they are filed.
Where can I get more information?
The full SEP can be accessed here. For more information about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and related regulations, click here. For more information on the role of AI under federal employment law, see here.
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