The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also known as the EEOC, is an authoritative agency that has been tasked with the responsibility of upholding federal laws that revolve around discrimination or harassment against job applicants or employees in the United States.
Established by the United States Congress, the main duty of the said commission is to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it commenced its operations on July 2, 1965.
It deems it essential to state that the main office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is located in Washington, D.C., which oversees an additional 37 field offices distributed across 15 districts throughout the United States as of what is emphasized from the year 2021.
1. The Working of The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Upholding federal laws that not only prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, and sex that stand inclusive of pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation but also restrict biases based on national origin, age, disability, and genetic information is the main aim of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Running on the same lines of thought, it serves to be unlawful to discriminate against individuals who report discrimination, file a discrimination charge, or participate in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
What serves as a highlight is the fact that a significant portion that is 55.8% of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the fiscal year 2020 were related to aspects of what is called ‘retaliation’. Hence, the landscape of business ethics has evolved immensely since the tumultuous 1960s that disrupted its relatively tranquil environment.
Delving further into the said arena, on June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court, in a 6-to-3 judge decision, ruled that protections against sex-based discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extend to LGBTQ workers. In the said case, which is known as Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the author of the opinion, stated that,
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender dismisses that person based on traits or actions that would not be questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, precisely what Title VII forbids.”
2. The Authority and Role of The Commission
Apart from preventing discrimination in the above-stated ambits, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is also bestowed with the authority to examine allegations of discrimination that have been filed against employers.
Serving as a highlight is the essence that employers who come under the purview of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws are those who have a workforce of at least 15 employees, and in terms of age discrimination, this standard increases to 20. Complementing the said, many labor unions, in addition to employment agencies, also fall within its jurisdiction.
Involving the aspect of impartially and precisely evaluating the claims presented in a charge and subsequently rendering a determination is one of the core responsibilities of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In situations where discrimination is visibly witnessed, the said commission takes it upon themselves to resolve the charge via the method of negotiation. Along the same lines, the authority also holds the power to initiate legal action in order to safeguard individuals as well as advance the public interest.
Elaboration further on the said concept, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is also bestowed with the power to administer laws that take under their umbrella a broad spectrum of work-related scenarios, processes, as well as functions.
Running on the same lines, the aforestated coverage extends not only to various aspects such as the recruitment and termination of employees, instances of harassment within the staff or management, job training initiatives, and promotions but also deals with matters pertaining to wages and benefits. Complementing the same, serving as an essential function of the aforementioned authority is the fact that it proactively works to forestall discrimination before it is brought into existence.
3. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Prevention of Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the eagerness to engage in the prevention of workplace discrimination through various outreach initiatives as well as educational programs which makes it one of the essential pillars of the justice system.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission representatives deliver no-cost presentations which are generally on a limited basis not only to professional associations, conferences, employer groups, but also nonprofit organizations. From elucidating the said commission’s mission and vision and the laws it enforces to enlightening the intricacies of the charge/complaint process, the aim of such presentations is brief.
Adding on the aforesaid, the idea of field offices is given the power to highlight designated small business liaisons who provide assistance to small businesses by addressing their inquiries and grievances.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in addition to the aforementioned, offers targeted information as well as resources that are specifically curated for veterans who are differently-abled.
Where the Youth@Work program, which was brought into existence by the same commission, focuses on educating young workers about their rights in the workplace. It stands inclusive of information about real cases involving teen workers and guidance on how to file a complaint; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Training Institute provides more comprehensive training to employers for a fee that offers in-depth insights into various aspects of workplace compliance.
4. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Jurisdiction
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the authority to investigate not only employers for potential violations but also individual members of their staff who are accused of engaging in harassment or discrimination.
Take, as an illustration, the fact that if a manager displays discriminatory behavior by refusing to interview or hire qualified candidates based solely on their ethnicity or race, the employer can be held accountable for expressing such discriminatory conduct. Not only the aforesaid, but this principle also applies when employers authorize harassment to exist without any intervention from their end.
Elaborating further, while the commission emphasizes the idea that independent contractors are not subject to anti-discrimination laws, a legal precedent was brought into existence in 2009 by the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In the case of Halpert v. Manhattan Apartments, it was established that companies can be held liable for the actions of independent contractors who are acting on their behalf.
Following the aforementioned line of thought, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been known to initiate legal actions against companies in cases where appropriate measures were not taken in cases of derogatory slurs, threats, assaults, unwanted sexual comments, or inappropriate touching in the workplace.
It is also stated that companies shall also face penalties and punishments for failing to alert employees about any prior misconduct falling under the aforesaid ambit that has been committed by another employee or manager with whom they are directed to work.
From giving punitive and compensatory damages to bestowing injunctive relief, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits pursue various forms of monetary damages to provide justice.
Statistically speaking, in the fiscal year 2020, the commission received a total of 67,448 charges of workplace discrimination, where 38% of the claims revolved around allegations of discrimination based on race or color. Charges related to sex-based harassment, which takes under its umbrella the concept of sexual harassment, stood at a numerical of 11,497, which reflected a decrease of nearly 1,300 from the statistics curated in 2019.
Along the same lines, the authority provides opportunities for parties who are involved to explore settlement options before initiating a formal investigation or proceeding to a trial. One of the outside court settlement procedures, known as the mediation method, which is a voluntary and informal process, is where two parties can collaborate with a neutral mediator to explore the possibility of reconciling their differences.
What stands as a highlight is the fact that in the aforesaid process, the mediator does not have the authority to make a final determination, but their role is to facilitate discussions followed by assisting the parties in reaching a settlement independently. In situations where mediation is termed to be unsuccessful, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission then proceeds with a formal investigation into the complaint, going ahead with a trial.
5. The Rights of The Individuals Given by The Commission
The regulations administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission grant five fundamental rights not only to individuals who are seeking employment but also to those who are already employed in the United States.
From job applicants and current employees to former employees, irrespective of their citizenship or work authorization status, the aforesaid law extends its protection to all working professionals.
On the same lines of thought, whether working full-time, part-time, seasonally, or temporarily, individuals are bestowed with safeguards only if they are employed by a covered employer. The laws encompass all federal government agencies as well as the majority of other employers with a workforce of at least 15 employees.
Not only this, but the fact that most unions and employment agencies are authorized to fall under the purview of these regulations serves as a highlight.
5.1. Right to a Work Free of Discrimination
Individuals are entitled to a workplace free from discrimination, which means that employers cannot base job-related decisions on factors such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or genetic information.
Not only this but discrimination based on age against workers who are 40 or older is also prohibited. The said grant applies to various aspects of employment that include processes revolving around hiring, termination, promotions, training, wages, and receiving benefits.
5.2. Right to a Work Free of Harassment
Employees are given the right to work in a professional environment that is devoid of harassment stemming from the concepts of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.
5.3. Right to Complain About Job Discrimination Without Punishment
Citizens of the United States who are working in the professional sector have the right to raise concerns about what they perceive as illegal job discrimination without the fear of reprisal.
Employers are strictly restricted from punishing, treating unfairly, or subjecting the said individuals to harassment for reporting job discrimination or assisting others in reporting such discrimination, even if the subsequent results of investigations reveal that the conduct was not termed unethical or incorrect.
5.4. Right to Keep Your Medical Information Private
The rules bestowed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the individuals, place strict limitations on the inquiries an employer can make regarding the employees’ health.
On the same lines of thought, individuals retain the right to keep any shared genetic or medical information confidential. Standing as a highlight is the fact that the employer is not allowed to disclose any genetic or medical details to others. However, there are extremely limited exceptions to the confidentiality requirements which have been stipulated by the rules and regulations brought into force by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
5.5. Right to Request Workplace Changes on the basis of Religion, Disability, or Pregnancy, Childbirth or Related Medical Conditions
Employees working in the professional arena hold onto the right to request reasonable modifications to their workplace due to their religious beliefs, pregnancy, childbirth, or any other related medical conditions. While employers are not obligated to fulfill every request, it is expected for them to thoughtfully assess each one, followed by determining its use and need.
6. The Types of Discrimination
6.1. The Age Discrimination
The laws brought into force by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explicitly forbid employers from treating applicants, as well as employees who are above the threshold of forty years, differently or less favorably due to the factor of age.
Apart from the aforementioned idea, it is essential to point out the fact that these regulations not only extend protection to workers aged forty or older but also safeguard them from age-based harassment by managers, co-workers, or other employees and authorities in the workplace.
Serving as a highlight is the fact that employees falling under the age bracket of forty are not covered by the said laws that revolve around age discrimination, although certain state and local laws may provide protection for younger workers under different regulations.
On the same lines of thought, to mention the fact that the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission not only ensure protection to be granted against workplace punishment or harassment for individuals who, or those closely associated with them but also encourage them to voice complaints about age discrimination. Such a protection is referred to as the right to be shielded from retaliation.
6.2. The Disability Discrimination
There are five fundamental rights that are bestowed upon the employees as well as the job applicants against disability discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a law, which are stated below:
- Non-Discrimination: Employers are prohibited from treating individuals differently or less favorably based on not only their own disability, a friend’s, or parent’s, but also on the basis of someone they associate with who has a disability, a history of a disability, or is perceived to have a disability.
- Prevention from Harassment: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission curated laws prohibit harassment in the workplace by any authority prevailing in the organization that stands inclusive of managers, co-workers, or others based on a person’s disability.
- Reasonable Accommodation: From job applications, job performance, and access to the workplace to enjoyment of the same benefits available to other employees, individuals have the right to request reasonable workplace modifications that facilitate the aforementioned.
- Privacy of Health Information: Apart from the aforementioned, the said rules strictly restrict employers from inquiring about an individual’s health as well as mandate the confidentiality of any medical information shared, with very limited exceptions in certain situations.
- Protection from Retaliation: On the same lines of thought, employees are shielded from punishment or harassment at work that is brought into play in response to complaints revolving around disability discrimination, whether lodged by the individual or someone closely associated with them, standing inclusive of a relative or close friend.
Elaborating further on the aspect of disability discrimination, it is only seen recently that Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, which solely facilitates the process for individuals to establish that they have a medical condition which is covered by the law.
Despite this new legislation, to discern whether disability discrimination has taken place serves to be an intricate aspect. What stands as a highlight is the fact that a person with a disability must have the capability to execute the job they are applying for or currently hold, either with or without reasonable accommodation.
6.3. The Pay Discrimination
The laws put together by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explicitly prohibit employers from engaging in discrimination regarding pay based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.
The aforesaid commission enforces the provisions of the legislation known as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The said rule book requires employers to provide equal pay to men and women for performing the same work prevailing at the same workplace.
On the same lines of thought, there are other laws that have been taken into account by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, also known as the ADEA, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, commonly called the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
The aforesaid collectively place a strict restriction on the aspect of pay discrimination based on the stated various factors. From salary, overtime pay, bonuses, vacation to holiday pay, insurance, use of company vehicles, and benefits, these laws take under their umbrella all forms of compensation.
6.4. The Race and Color Discrimination
The laws brought to play by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission emphasize strict prohibition on employers from dealing with individuals and those they associate with, including friends, parents, or others differently or less favorably that stand on the basis of their race or color, or on the basis of personal traits associated with a specific race, that deems inclusive of hair texture, color, or certain facial features.
On the same lines of thought, all racial backgrounds that take under its umbrella individuals belonging to the Caucasians, Blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Native Alaskans categories are safeguarded from racial discrimination. Complementing the aforesaid, bi-racial and multi-racial individuals are also protected from biases falling under the ambit of their race.
The rules enforced by the said commission extend protection against workplace harassment by managers, co-workers, or others based on an individual’s race or color is another addition of power that the authority holds.
6.5. The Religious Discrimination
Explicitly restricting employers from having to treat citizens of the United States less favorably based on their own religious beliefs or the beliefs of those they associate with, such as friends or parents, is another aspect that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission deals with.
Such aforesaid laws grant protections not only to all sincerely-held religious beliefs but also serve irrespective of whether they align with traditional organized religions like Buddhism, Christianity, or Judaism or the ones that are considered non-traditional, such as Wicca and Rastafarianism. The fact that non-believers are also protected from religious discrimination stands as a highlight of the rules brought into play by the said authority.
Running on the same plane is the fact that the safeguards individuals are given via the rules put forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission save them from harassment at work on account of the religious beliefs they hold.
Not only the fact that individuals are bestowed with the right to request reasonable changes to the workplace, known as “religious accommodation,” to follow through with their religious beliefs, but the idea that employers are not obliged to grant every request for a workplace change, they are required to carefully scrutinize each request, so as to comprehend its feasibility, is an aspect of grave importance.
What serves as a highlight is the essence that an employer may not be required to grant a request if it proves too costly, negatively impacts efficiency, compromises workplace safety, or infringes on the rights of other employees in any capacity.
6.6. The Sex Discrimination
Bringing into play two laws to protect individuals from sex discrimination in the workplace, including during the job application process, is another pillar of excellence standing tall with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The aforesaid is described as below:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: This provision of the legislation stringently forbids employers from acting towards individuals in a biased manner on the basis of their sex, which stands inclusive of aspects such as pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity. On the same lines, the said title also restricts employment decisions that come from the notions of stereotyping gender-related abilities and traits. Regardless of state or local laws, everyone, irrespective of gender, is protected from sex discrimination.
- Equal Pay Act: This rule book makes it a point to mandate employers to provide equal pay to male and female employees for similar tasks executed at the same workplace.
The fact that the said laws given life by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also prohibit sex harassment in the workplace serves to be of great importance. From sexual conduct, such as jokes, photos, touching, or requests for sexual favors, to non-sexual conduct based on gender, such as comments about men or women not belonging to certain jobs or questioning their skills, discrimination, and harassment on account of sex has been strictly ruled to be forbidden.
Any kind of bias that stems from the aspects of sexual orientation, pregnancy, or gender identity has also been said to be prohibited.
Marking it as a crucial aspect to be pinpointed, the fact that sex harassment is considered illegal if it is unwelcome and occurs so frequently or is so severe that it creates a hostile work environment is another food for thought. The law not only protects individuals from harassment by supervisors, colleagues, and others in the workplace but also stands to be irrespective of their sex or the sex of the harasser.
An agency marked with the notion to uphold federal laws that circle around discrimination or harassment against job applicants or employees in the United States is the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Where such biases exist in the professional setup, the rules via various legislation, brought to play by the commission, serve to be of utmost importance. From understanding the discriminations it regulates to the legislations it follows, the authority stands to be the torchbearer of justice in the corporate world.