Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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Related to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: EEO, Equal opportunity employer

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with eliminating discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age, in all terms and conditions of employment. The EEOC investigates alleged discrimination through its 50 field offices, makes determinations based on gathered evidence, attempts conciliation when discrimination has taken place, and files lawsuits. The EEOC also oversees compliance and enforcement activities relating to equal employment opportunity among federal employees and applicants, including discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The EEOC was created by title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-4. Title VII was amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Pub. L. No. 92-261, Mar. 24, 1972, 86 Stat. 103; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-555, Oct. 31, 1978, 92 Stat. 2076, codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e(K); and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071. On July 1, 1979, responsibility for enforcement of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 201 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 626 et seq., in private industry as well as state and local governments, was transferred from the department of labor to the EEOC. The Equal Pay Act prohibits gender-based pay differences for substantially equal work requiring equal skill and responsibility; the Age Discrimination Act prohibits employment discrimination against workers or applicants 40 years of age or older. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 12101 et seq. has been enforced by the EEOC since July 1992. Title I governs private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees. The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities and requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for these individuals.

Complaints under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, by private employers, state and local governments, educational institutions with 15 or more employees, the federal government, private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees for apprenticeship and training. Charges of title VII violations outside the federal sector must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged violation or in states with fair employment practices agencies, within 300 days. The EEOC is responsible for notifying the persons charged, within 10 days after receiving a charge. Before investigation, charges must be deferred for 60 days to state or local fair employment practices agencies in localities with a fair employment practices law covering the alleged discrimination. If the agency has been operating less than one year, the charges must be deferred for 120 days.

Under work-sharing agreements between the EEOC and state and local fair employment practices agencies, the EEOC routinely assumes authority over certain charges of discrimination and proceeds with its investigation. If reasonable cause exists to believe that a charge is true, the district, area, or local office uses informal conciliation conferences to try to remedy the unlawful practices. If an acceptable agreement cannot be reached, the case is submitted to the EEOC for possible litigation. If litigation is approved, the EEOC brings suit in federal district court.

Under title VII, the attorney general brings suit when a state or local government or political subdivision is involved. If litigation is not approved or if a finding of no reasonable cause is made, the charging party is allowed to sue within 90 days in federal district court. The EEOC may intervene in such actions if the case is of general public interest.

Complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 incorporates the remedies and procedures contained in title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employment discrimination charges based on disability may be filed at any of the EEOC's field offices. The EEOC investigates and attempts to conciliate the charges using the same procedures as for charges filed under title VII. The litigation procedures under title VII also apply to charges filed under the ADA.

The progress in creating a genetic "map" for humans in the 1990s was hailed by scientists who hoped a better understanding of genetic makeup might someday help prevent debilitating diseases including cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Along with that promise came the fear that employers might use a person's genetic information to deny employment. In February 2000 President bill clinton signed Executive Order 13145, which prohibits federal departments and agencies from using protected genetic information to make hiring decisions.

Complaints under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Equal Pay Act of 1963

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Equal Pay Act of 1963 cover most employees and job applicants in private industry and in the federal, state, and local governments. An age discrimination charge must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged violation, or where the action took place in a state that has an age discrimination law and an authority administering that law, within 300 days of the violation or 30 days after receiving the notice of termination of state proceedings, whichever is earlier. A lawsuit must be filed within two years of the alleged discriminatory act or within three years in cases of a willful violation of the law.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, a lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of the plaintiff's receipt of a notice of final action. The EEOC first attempts to end the alleged unlawful practice through informal conciliation. If conciliation fails, the EEOC may sue. Individuals may sue on their own behalf 90 days after filing a charge with the EEOC and the appropriate state agency. If the EEOC takes legal action, an individual covered by the lawsuit may not file a private action.

A lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 may be filed by the EEOC or by the complainant. There are no prerequisites for bringing a private action under this law. Wages may be recovered for a period of up to two years prior to the filing of a suit, except in a case of willful violation, for which three years' back pay may be recovered. The name of the individual filing the complaint may be kept confidential at the administrative level.

Complaints against the Federal Government

Federal employees or job applicants who want to file complaints of job discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or physical or mental disability must first consult an equal employment opportunity counselor with the employees' or applicants' agency within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory action. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, the person may file a formal complaint within 15 days of receiving a notice of the right to file a complaint. An accepted complaint is investigated by the agency, and the complainant has a right to a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge before the agency issues its final decision. An individual who wishes to file a complaint under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 must follow these procedures. An individual may also elect to file suit under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 without prior resort to the agency or to the EEOC.

A complaint under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, against a federal agency or department, must be filed with the head of the agency, director of equal employment opportunity, head of an EEOC field installation, or other designated official. Federal employees may bypass the administrative complaint process and file a civil action directly in a federal district court, by first notifying the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act and then waiting 30 calendar days before filing suit. A federal employee may appeal a decision of an agency, an arbitrator, or the Federal Labor Relations Authority, with the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations, at any time up to 30 calendar days after receiving the agency notice of final decision. A petition for review of a Merit Systems Protection Board decision may be filed within 30 days of the date that the board decision becomes final. A request for reconsideration of any EEOC decision must be made in writing within 30 days of receiving the decision.

Other Activities

The EEOC publishes data on the employment status of women and members of minority groups. Through six employment surveys covering private employers, apprenticeship programs, labor unions, state and local governments, elementary and secondary schools, and Colleges and Universities, the EEOC tabulates data on employees' ethnic, racial, and gender makeup. The EEOC distributes this information to various federal agencies and makes it available for public use.

Eliminating a large backlog of discrimination charges has been a continuing problem for the EEOC, but efforts to streamline have been effective; by fiscal year 2001 the inventory of charges had been reduced to 32,481, in contrast to a record 120,000 charges in mid-1995.

In 1999 the EEOC launched a National Mediation Program as an alternative to the traditional complaint process. Professionals trained in mediation work with employers and employees to determine whether a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached. By 2003 the EEOC had resolved 29,000 charges through mediation. In March 2003 the EEOC added a mediation pilot program, a "referral back" program that allows the agency to give charges back to a company's internal dispute resolution program in the hopes of mediating its own agreement.

Web site: <http:/www.eeoc.gov>.

Further readings

Fick, Barbara J. 1997. The American Bar Association Guide to Workplace Law: Everything You Need to Know about Your Rights as an Employee or Employer. New York: Times Books.

Player, Mack A. 1999. Federal Law of Employment Discrimination in a Nutshell. 4th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

——. 1988. Employment Discrimination Law. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 2003).

Williams, Douglas L. 1995. "Handling the EEOC Investigation." American Law Institute-American Bar Association C983.


Affirmative Action; Civil Rights; Disability Discrimination; Employment Law; Sex Discrimination.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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