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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has approved a strategic plan to establish the agency's national enforcement priorities for fiscal years 2013 to 2016 and to better integrate enforcement responsibilities among the agency's national and field offices, EEOC announced Dec. 18.
By a 3-1 vote completed Dec. 17, EEOC's commissioners cleared a plan that enumerates six national priorities as focuses of an integrated enforcement effort and calls for development of complementary enforcement plans for EEOC district offices and the federal sector.
EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien and Commissioner Chai Feldblum, both Democrats, and Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, a Republican, voted for the final strategic enforcement plan (SEP). Commissioner Constance Barker, a Republican, cast the sole vote against the plan.
The SEP grew out of EEOC's overall strategic plan for fiscal years 2012 to 2016, which the commission approved in February (30 HRR 205, 2/27/12). EEOC held a public meeting to gather input for the SEP in July (30 HRR 833, 7/30/12), while an internal EEOC workgroup led by Berrien, General Counsel David Lopez, and Memphis District Director Katharine Kores worked to develop the plan. EEOC released a draft SEP in September, again soliciting public comment (30 HRR 960, 9/10/12).
EEOC received comments from more than 100 individuals and organizations in response to the draft plan, according to the final plan.
The SEP identifies six national priorities as the focus of its integrated enforcement effort. They are: eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring; protecting immigrant, migrant, and other vulnerable workers; addressing emerging and developing employment discrimination issues; enforcing equal pay laws; preserving access to the legal system; and preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and outreach.
The plan also directs EEOC to pursue a coordinated approach to ensure “consistent and integrated enforcement” throughout the private, public (state and local government employers), and federal sectors over which the agency has jurisdiction.
“The SEP promotes more strategic use of agency resources with the ultimate goal of advancing EEOC's mission of stopping and remedying unlawful discrimination,” Berrien said in a Dec. 18 statement.
In a separate Dec. 18 statement, Commissioner Barker said she opposed the plan partly because of its “emphasis on targeted enforcement through investigations and litigation rather than prevention--as Congress intended.”
Barker also said she was concerned that the plan “reinforces, rather than rescinds” EEOC's “unfortunate” past decision to delegate to EEOC's general counsel in most instances the commission's authority “to vote to approve any lawsuit that would be filed by the EEOC.”
“This is, I believe, one of our most fundamental responsibilities as commissioners and one that should not have been ceded to the general counsel,” Barker said.
In a Dec. 18 interview with BNA, Berrien said the SEP represents a “very important step forward” in implementing the overall strategic plan and in moving toward the vision of “one EEOC,” meaning an agency with an integrated and targeted strategy for preventing and remedying discrimination.
Berrien said it is important that the SEP not only enumerates enforcement priorities but also gives EEOC the capacity to change in response to shifts in the U.S. workforce or economy.
The final plan adds one national priority enforcement area--equal pay laws--that was not contained in the commission's draft plan, Berrien said. EEOC “certainly read and carefully considered” all comments received from individuals and groups on its draft plan, as well as the more than 100 comments received prior to EEOC's July public meeting, she said.
Those comments “definitely shaped” the EEOC's work group's deliberations and led to clarifications in the final SEP, Berrien said. Most changes in the SEP were “to clarify things commenters thought were confusing” in the draft plan, she said.
EEOC's work is far from over, as the SEP calls for development of district and federal sector “complement” plans to address how EEOC's local offices and its federal sector division will enforce the national priorities as well as identify and pursue particular local or federal sector issues.
Under the leadership of EEOC's general counsel and the director of EEOC's Office of Field Programs, each district office director and regional attorney, in consultation with field, local, and area office directors, shall develop a district complement plan by March 29, 2013, according to the SEP.
Also still to come are EEOC quality control plans for both the private and the federal sector administrative processes. The SEP calls for a quality control plan to be submitted to EEOC by March 29, 2013, with a commission vote by April 30, 2013.
Text of EEOC's strategic enforcement plan is available at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=kmgn-934ruv.
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