Technical assistance

EEOC Priorities: Employers Need to Take Note | Donelson Baker

On August 16, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hosted a webinar examining its current priorities and initiatives. It is important for employers to be aware of the priorities of the EEOC, as these are areas where the EEOC intends to focus its efforts in the near future.

Hire to Reimagine Equity (HIRE) Initiative

The EEOC launched the “HIRE” initiative in January 2022. HIRE is a joint initiative between the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) aimed at “reinventing[ing] hiring and recruitment practices in a manner that promotes equal employment opportunity and provides workers with access to good jobs. HIRE focuses on several key areas related to hiring and recruiting, including:

  • review organizational policies and practices related to hiring,
  • identify strategies to remove unnecessary barriers to hiring,
  • promote fairness in the use of technology-enabled hiring systems, and
  • develop resources to promote the adoption of innovative, evidence-based recruitment and hiring practices that promote equity.

The EEOC and OFCCP plan to advance the goals of HIRE by hosting a series of roundtables, meetings, and public forums aimed at identifying actionable strategies to promote policies and organizational practices that advance equity. The EEOC and OFCCP then plan to take this information and develop resources such as guidance documents or how-to resources.

Initiative on Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness

The EEOC launched an artificial intelligence initiative in late 2021 with the goal of “ensuring[ing] that the use of software, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other emerging technologies used in hiring and other employment decisions complies with federal civil rights laws that the EEOC applies. The AI ​​initiative examines how existing and developing technologies are fundamentally changing the way employment decisions are made, and the EEOC hopes to guide employers, employees, job seekers and providers to ensure that AI technologies are used fairly and consistently with federal equal employment opportunity laws. the design and impact of hiring and other employment-related technologies; hold listening sessions with key stakeholders; identify promising practices; and finally provide technical assistance to provide advice on the use of AI in employment decisions.

Joint initiative to end retaliation and promote workers’ rights

In November 2021, the EEOC, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) launched a joint initiative focused on addressing workplace retaliation. Retaliation is the most frequently cited basis of discrimination in EEOC charges, and the initiative aims to reduce these claims by educating the public and engaging with employers, professional organizations, labor organizations and civil rights groups. The initiative launched through a virtual dialogue with the employer community focused on the importance of anti-retaliation protections for workers exercising their rights, and the joint commitment of agencies to vigorous enforcement.

In addition to the three initiatives, the EEOC discussed its compensation data collection efforts (perhaps indicating an increased focus on pay equity) and confirmed that the agency is in the process of updating its five-year strategic implementation plan (expected to be released later in 2022). The EEOC is also taking a closer look at LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace following the 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. County of Clayton, which held that sexual orientation was a protected class under Title VII.

Employers should review their policies and practices to ensure that the rights of their workers are adequately protected. The current areas of focus of the EEOC are not overt acts of discrimination on the part of an employer. On the contrary, an employer may be unaware that their hiring practice or use of assisted technology for hiring eliminates employees from a protected group. Nevertheless, these unintentional violations of federal discrimination laws may subject employers to increased scrutiny from the EEOC, as well as legal liability.