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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

What Is The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency under the Department of Labor that is responsible for enforcing federal laws regarding discrimination against job applicants and employees. According to their website, the commission handles issues of discrimination based on all protected classes including:

  • Age
  • Color
  • Disability status
  • Genetic information
  • National Origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

Some subjects are more restrictive, such as age discrimination only applies to individuals who are 40 or older. Other subjects are highly inclusive. According to the EEOC website, discrimination based on sex includes not only sexism, but also discrimination against pregnant, transgender, and LGBTQIA+ people.

The EEOC has jurisdiction over most employers with at least 15 employees unless it is an age discrimination case in which case the employee minimum is 20. Labor unions and employment agencies are also covered by commission jurisdiction. EEOC laws also apply to all work situations. That allows the commission to intervene in discriminatory practices during the hiring, firing, and training process as well as discrimination in promotions, harassment, wages, and benefit distribution.

The EEOC works to investigate discrimination charges against employers by assessing allegations, making a finding, and then either dismissing the charge, opting for mediation, or filing a lawsuit. The EEOC also proactively works to prevent discriminatory practices with outreach, education, and assistance programs.

Key Takeaways

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal entity that is responsible for handling charges of discrimination brought by employees against their employer, labor union, or employment agency.
  • The EEOC investigates all protected forms of discrimination and, if it finds that discrimination has occurred, can offer resolution services. 
  • While the EEOC can step in and file a lawsuit on behalf of an employee, they only litigate a small portion and have to give great consideration to the long-term effects that litigating the case would have on the commission.
  • If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace but have not had your case taken up by the EEOC, an experienced Employment Law attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Employment Law

The EEOC is a bipartisan commission headed by five members appointed by the president. Two members take on the roles of commission chair and vice-chair, while the remaining members are simply commissioners. The president also appoints a General Counsel to support the commission’s legal effort.

The commission chair administers and implements the policies for the financial management and organizational development of the commission while the vice-chair and commissioners share responsibility for developing and approving commission policies. The commissioners also issue charges of discrimination when they find it to be appropriate and authorize the filing of lawsuits. 

If the commission finds that discrimination has occurred, they may contact the employer and employee to offer their services in mediation. Both parties may voluntarily accept or decline. If the mediation is refused, an investigator will be appointed by the commission to investigate the charges further. If the parties agree, the commission will schedule a mediation with a mediator appointed by the commission. 

The commission itself is free of charge and will typically last three to four hours and run longer if the case is more complex. If the parties reach an agreement, a legally enforceable agreement is signed and the issue is resolved. If the parties fail to resolve their issues in mediation, then an investigation proceeds.

After mediation, the EEOC also has the authority to “file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.” The EEOC does not litigate a large number of lawsuits. This is partially due to size, but mostly it is because the commission only litigates cases after considering several factors. Those factors are:

  • The strength of the evidence presented in the case
  • The issues being explored in the case
  • The wider impact the success or failure of the lawsuit could have on the commission’s continued efforts to combat workplace discrimination

If they deem a case worthy of pursuit, the commission may use private employers, state governments, local governments, or other covered entities for alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act where appropriate.

Bottom Line

If you have experienced workplace discrimination and have reported your case to the EEOC but they did not choose to take your case directly, you still have options. You can hire an Employment Law attorney to take your case directly.

An experienced Employment Law attorney can use their legal expertise in discrimination law to get you the best possible outcome for your case. In addition, your Employment Law attorney can subpoena documents, depositions, and evidence to support your claim while using expert witnesses to provide professional testimony in favor of your arguments.

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