The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unanimously approved a comprehensive plan last month to make fighting systemic discrimination its top priority. This new program represents a major change in the agency’s fundamental priorities.
The program was recommended by an internal agency task force led by Commissioner Leslie E. Silverman. The Task Force concluded that although EEOC had successfully investigated, conciliated and litigated numerous systemic cases, there were many opportunities for improvement. It recommended that combating systemic discrimination should be a top priority at EEOC and an intrinsic, ongoing part of the agency's daily work.
Some of the Task Force’s most important recommendations include:
- Systemic Investigations and Litigation: Districts will develop Systemic Plans that specify the steps they will take to identify and investigate systemic discrimination and how the work will be accomplished. The Systemic Plans should ensure a coordinated, national approach to combating systemic discrimination. EEOC will staff systemic lawsuits based on the needs of the case rather than the office where the case arose.
- Field and Headquarters Roles and Incentives: The investigation and litigation of systemic cases will be performed solely in the field. Headquarters will provide litigation support services and support the field’s systemic program through assistance with partnering, coordination, and legal and data analysis. EEOC will create incentives through performance plans and other means to encourage the field to identify, investigate and litigate systemic cases, partner with other offices and staff on systemic cases, and develop systemic expertise among staff.
- Staffing, Technology and Expertise: EEOC will address staffing needs to ensure the success of a nationwide systemic program. It will also ensure that its technology infrastructure supports a seamless nationwide systemic practice. EEOC will enhance systemic expertise among staff through a variety of means including partnering opportunities with other staff, formal and informal training, and partnerships with other agencies and organizations.
- Advisory Committee: EEOC will create an Internal Advisory Committee to assess the agency’s overall effectiveness in combating systemic discrimination and serve as a resource on systemic matters.
- Proactive Prevention: EEOC will educate the public about systemic trends, issues and cases in support of its efforts to prevent discrimination and educate employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities.
The EEOC’s emphasis on systemic discrimination increases the need for employers to prevent bias. This means being proactive in preventing discrimination and harassment because small cases can potentially explode into larger and more costly agency actions.