The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued expanded policy guidance on race and color discrimination at a public meeting on April 19 in Washington, DC. The guidance was unanimously approved by the five-member Commission.
What does the guidance cover?
The 55-page document released by the agency updates a chapter in the EEOC Compliance Manual and interprets the legal standards under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for evaluating race and color discrimination claims in recruiting, hiring and promotions, and other employment decisions. The guidance incorporates some 30 examples of potential race discrimination and harassment claims in various scenarios and sets out best practices for employers to reduce the likelihood of Title VII violations. The EEOC also issued a seven-page question and answer document summarizing the detailed compliance guidance.
Why is the guidance being released now?
The Commission released the guidance because allegations of race discrimination continue to constitute the largest percentage of the employment charges received by the EEOC. About 35.5 percent of the 75,400 discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in 2005 alleged racial discrimination. While equal opportunity has increased dramatically in America since Title VII was first enacted, race discrimination in employment still persists.
Panelists at the EEOC hearing:
A panel of civil rights advocates and a plaintiffs’ attorney praised the guidance and its focus on cases involving hiring issues and on allegations of systemic bias in the workplace. Speaking on the panel were:
- Paul M. Igasaki, Executive Director, Rights Working Group
- Michael L. Foreman, Deputy Director of Legal Programs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The panel members were in agreement that more outreach to minority communities and their leadership was essential to reduce racial discrimination. Many panelists also cited the EEOC’s approval of a comprehensive plan to revive the Commission’s emphasis on the investigation and litigation of systemic cases. When implemented with the new guidance on race and color discrimination, the enforcement and litigation efforts at the commission “should be reinvigorated,” according to panelists.
What should employers do?
DCI clients should become familiar with EEOC’s new guidance on race and color discrimination and understand the implications for their companies. Work with legal counsel in reviewing corporate practices with regard to hiring, recruiting, promotions and terminations of employees in light of the new policy guidance. Consider what training may be necessary for managers and HR staff on the new race and color discrimination guidance.