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EEOC’s New Enforcement Priorities: What Employers Need to Know

By Douglas Lipsky

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced its enforcement priorities for the upcoming fiscal years, with significant implications for employers. As a seasoned New York employment law firm, we are here to guide businesses through these changes and help them prepare.

The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) Explained

The EEOC released its SEP for the fiscal years 2024 to 2028 on September 21. This document is distinct from the strategic plan released by the agency in August, which outlined broader, long-term goals for the EEOC. The SEP sets out concrete goals concerning the agency’s enforcement authority.

EEOC’s Six Key Enforcement Priorities

  1. Eliminating Recruitment and Hiring Barriers – The EEOC is setting its sights on businesses utilizing AI and machine learning in employment decisions, aiming to prevent any potential biases or discriminations.
  2. Protecting Vulnerable Workers – The agency will continue to enforce protections for employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities, those with arrest or conviction histories, and members of the LGBTQI+ community from employment discrimination.
  3. Addressing Emerging Issues – The EEOC will focus on protections for workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, and employment discrimination due to long Covid-19 or technology-related biases.
  4. Promoting Equal Pay – Beyond combating outright pay discrimination, the EEOC will also examine practices contributing to pay disparities, like the reliance on salary histories.
  5. Ensuring Access to Legal Systems – The EEOC is on the watch for employers employing overly broad waivers, releases, non-disclosure agreements, non-disparagement agreements, and mandatory arbitration provisions.
  6. Addressing Systemic Harassment – The agency will focus on widespread harassment patterns, even if the claim comes from an individual or small group.

Claims that fall under any of these categories will undergo closer scrutiny by the EEOC’s investigators and litigators, making it essential for businesses to be aware and prepared.

Collaboration Between the EEOC and the Department of Labor (DOL)

A noteworthy development is the collaboration between the EEOC and the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The agencies entered a memorandum of understanding outlining a plan to enhance their enforcement capabilities. 

This partnership implies a more integrated approach to investigations, information sharing, and outreach, especially concerning laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act.

The agencies will likely share data, resulting in more robust investigations of employers.

What This Means for Employers

The announcement of the EEOC’s enforcement priorities and the collaboration with the DOL signals a more vigilant regulatory landscape. Employers should consult an employment law attorney to:

  • Review and, if necessary, modify their recruitment and hiring practices, especially if using AI or machine learning tools.
  • Ensure they comply with equal employment opportunity laws.
  • Prepare for more detailed investigations by both the EEOC and the DOL.

The Takeaway

The EEOC’s new SEP provides valuable insights into what employers can expect in enforcement priorities in the coming years. Employers should familiarize themselves with these focus areas and proactively ensure compliance to minimize potential legal complications. Our firm stands ready to assist businesses in navigating these changes, ensuring they are well-prepared for what lies ahead.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.