The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a bipartisan Commission comprised of five (there are currently two vacancy’s) presidential appointees, including the Chair, Vice Chair, and three Commissioners. In addition to the Commissioners, there is also a presidentially appointed General Counsel to support the Commission and provide direction, coordination, and supervision to the EEOC’s litigation program. The EEOC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 53 supporting field offices around the nation.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against a job applicant, or an employee, because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or over), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a job applicant, or an employee, because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Who is covered by the EEOC, or what type of employers must comply is oftentimes confusing? However, here is a basic rule of thumb when it comes to general coverage:
- Business/Private Employers – The business is covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces if it has 15 or more employees who worked for the employer for at least 20 calendar weeks (in the current year or the last year).
- Age Discrimination – The business is covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces if it has 20 or more employees who worked for the employer for at least 20 calendar weeks (in the current year or the last year).
- Equal Pay Act (EPA) – All employers are covered by the EPA, which makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform substantially equal work in the same workplace.
- State or Local Government – All state or local government agencies are covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces if it has 15 or more employees who work for the agency at least 20 calendar weeks (in the current year or the last year).
- Age Discrimination – The state or local government agency is covered by the law no matter how many employees it employs.
- Equal Pay Act (EPA) – All state and local government agencies are covered by the EPA, which makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform substantially equal work in the same workplace.
- Federal Government – Federal government agencies are covered by the laws enforced by the EEOC regardless of the number of employees employed in each agency. They also have a different process for complaints compared to all other employers.
- Employment Agencies – Employment agencies, such as temporary staffing, or a recruiting firm, are covered by all laws enforced by the EEOC, even if they do not receive payment for their services regardless of the number of employees. They are also prohibited from discriminating in their own referral practices.
- Labor Unions and Joint Apprenticeship Committees – Labor unions and joint apprenticeship committees are covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces when they either operate a hiring hall or have at least 15 members. Their laws also cover any joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship, or other training or retraining programs, including an on-the-job training program.
- Age Discrimination – All labor unions that either operate a hiring hall or have at least 25 members.
- Equal Pay Act (EPA) – All labor unions and joint apprenticeship committees are covered by the EPA, which makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform substantially equal work in the same workplace.
How do employers know how to count employees to determine whether they are considered a covered employer? Generally, a worker may be counted as an employee if he or she has worked for the employer for at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or last year. That means that some part-time workers may be covered as employees to show the employer is covered by the laws enforced by the EEOC. If the employer has more than one work site, employees at each of the work sites may be counted together. Figuring out who is counted and whether an employer is covered by the laws of the EEOC may be complicated. Employers who are not sure should contact their local EEOC field office and state or local agency, as an employer who is not covered by federal EEOC laws may still have to comply with state and local laws.
The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the laws that they enforce. If an employer has the required number of employees, an employee, job applicant, former employee, an applicant or participant in a training or apprenticeship program may file a charge of discrimination against an employer. American workers employed by U.S. organizations oversees enjoy the same broad protections as workers in the U.S. This means that anti-discrimination laws travel with employees, so long as the employee is a U.S. citizen working for a U.S. organization. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
As stated above the various types of discrimination prohibited by laws enforced by the EEOC include:
- Equal Pay/Compensation
- Genetic Information
- National Origin
- Sexual Harassment
The laws that are enforced to cover these types of discrimination include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (amended Title VII)
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
There are several other laws that prohibit discrimination or that regulate workplace issues that are not enforced by the EEOC and they include:
- The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA)
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)
- Executive Order 11246
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Title III of the ADA
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA)
- Sections 503, 504, and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
- The Social Security Act
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
- Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866
- Workers’ Compensation Law
- Title I of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
A job applicant, or employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against at work may file a “Charge of Discrimination” with the EEOC. All laws enforced by the EEOC, except for the Equal Pay Act, require job applicants and employees to file a “Charge of Discrimination” with the EEOC before they are able to file a job discrimination lawsuit against an employer. There are strict time limits for filing a charge and that information is listed on the EEOC’s website.
When a “Charge of Discrimination” is received it is the EEOC’s role to investigate the claim and fairly and accurately assess the allegations in the charge and then make a finding. The fact that the EEOC has taken a charge does not mean that the government is accusing anyone of discrimination. The charging party has alleged that an employer had discriminated against him or her and it is the EEOC’s job to investigate the matter to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred. If they determine that a discrimination has occurred, they will try and settle the charge with the employer. If they are not successful at settling the complaint, they have the authority to file a lawsuit against the employer to protect the rights of the individuals and the interests of the public. When deciding on whether or not to file a lawsuit, the EEOC considers several factors such as the strength of the evidence, the issues in the case, and the wider the impact the lawsuit may have o the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination.
All employers are required to post notices describing the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), nation origin, age (40 or over), disability or genetic information. Employers are also required to keep certain records, regardless of whether a charge has been filed against them. When a charge is filed, employers may have additional recordkeeping requirements. In addition, the EEOC collects data from some employers, regardless of whether a charge has been filed or not.
This article was written for educational purposes only and all information was taken from the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov . Employers who have additional questions may contact their local EEOC field office or New Focus HR, LLC at www.newfocushr.com.
Written By: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP