New EEOC Plan Targets Anti-Muslim Bias, Gig Workers

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By Kevin McGowan

Oct. 17 — The EEOC has approved a strategic enforcement plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2021 that adds the “emerging issues” of increased use of contract workers and discrimination against Muslims, among others, to its existing priorities.

The new plan, which the agency announced Oct. 17, updates a prior four-year plan that set six broad enforcement priorities.

One new emerging issue relates to “complex employment relationships” in the contemporary workplace, the EEOC said. That means more agency scrutiny regarding temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships and the on-demand or “gig” economy.

The other new emphasis is “backlash discrimination” based on religion, race or national origin against Muslims or Sikhs or people of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, the agency said.

The technology industry’s lack of diversity and the use of “data-driven screening tools” to make hiring and employment decisions also will be focus areas, the EEOC said.

Barriers in the tech industry to the employment and advancement of women, certain racial minorities and other protected groups were discussed at a May 18 EEOC meeting.

Last week, an EEOC meeting focused on discrimination that could occur when employers use computer-driven tools to find, recruit and evaluate job applicants and employees.

The EEOC in December 2012 adopted its original strategic enforcement plan to set priorities and to coordinate the agency’s efforts, which aren’t limited to litigation. They also include investigations, settlement efforts and education and outreach to employers, workers and other affected parties.

Enforcement Priorities Remain

The agency’s latest plan retains those enforcement priorities set in the fiscal 2013-2016 plan:

  •  Eliminate barriers in recruitment and hiring;
  •  Protect vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers and underserved communities, from discrimination;
  •  Address selected emerging and developing issues;
  •  Ensure equal pay protections for all workers;
  •  Preserve access to the legal system; and
  •  Prevent systemic harassment.

The EEOC’s lawsuits filed on behalf of workers who are victims of human trafficking and on behalf of LGBT individuals alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are some examples of how it pursued those priorities.

The agency this year also released a task force report on preventing workplace harassment and new enforcement guidance on retaliation. Both seek to reboot the EEOC’s efforts against those persistent forms of discrimination.

Commissioners Split Over Plan

The EEOC adopted its latest strategic enforcement plan by a 3-2 vote in late September, a commission spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 17.

Commissioner Victoria Lipnic (R) said the latest plan gives too much leeway to the EEOC general counsel to file lawsuits without first getting the five-member commission’s approval.

The fiscal 2013-2016 plan required the general counsel annually to submit at least one litigation recommendation from each EEOC district to the commission for approval. That meant the general counsel had to submit at least 15 proposed lawsuits for EEOC approval each year.

Under the new plan, however, the general counsel doesn’t have to submit at least one case from each district for litigation approval by Sept. 30 each year. Instead, he can submit a report to the EEOC that describes lawsuits approved by the general counsel from districts for which the EEOC commissioners hadn’t reviewed any proposed lawsuits during the prior fiscal year.

That was a deal-breaker for Lipnic, who in 2012 had voted for the original strategic enforcement plan.

“As a matter of [EEOC] governance, the Commissioners should review more proposed litigation matters, not fewer,” Lipnic said in an Oct. 17 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA. “I am troubled that the revised SEP released today appears to move backwards in this regard, and I could not support it.”

Commissioner Constance Barker (R), the EEOC’s longest-serving member, also voted against the plan. Barker in 2012 had cast the sole vote against the original SEP.

EEOC Chair Jenny Yang (D) and Commissioners Chai Feldblum (D) and Charlotte Burrows (D) voted for the new plan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at

For More Information

Text of the EEOC’s new strategic enforcement plan is available at

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