The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have been working together; sharing and coordinating information. This collective enforcement can result in an employer having multiple claims from various agencies due to a single issue. This combination has other synergistic results; including the ability to initiate class-action lawsuits.
The EEOC’s mission is to “stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination,” to achieve the EEOC’s vision of “justice and equality in the workplace.” EEOC developed a strategic enforcement plan (SEP) to effectively carry out its mission.
The SEP establishes the Commission’s priorities for the next three years. There are six areas of focus:
1. Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and
2. Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and
Other Vulnerable Workers.
3. Addressing Emerging and Developing
4. Enforcing Equal Pay Laws.
5. Preserving Access to the Legal System.
6. Preventing Harassment Through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach.
Employers need to be aware of the changing face of discrimination. Systemic enforcement of alleged discrimination means a pattern, practice, or policy which has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic location.
EEOC’s Chair Jacqueline Berrien recently responded to questions about the agency’s SEP during a House Subcommittee hearing. She spoke about the focus on systemic discrimination cases as well as the barriers to hiring including credit and background checks.
The Subcommittee Chairman, Tim Wallberg (R-MI) questioned the purpose of shifting attention toward systemic discrimination from traditional enforcement based on individual complaints. He criticized diverting the resources. Wallberg also objected to the recent EEOC guidance on the use of conviction and arrest records.
Subcommittee member Joe Courtney (D-CT) promoted three pieces of anti-discrimination legislation; Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) and the Paycheck Fairness Act. ENDA prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s sexual identity or gender identity. POWADA would expand several federal statutes including the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA ) to include liability based on a mixed-motive. The Paycheck Fairness Act prohibits gender-based pay discrimination.
Action items for employers include:
EEOC has re-tooled and united with its sister agencies. Employers are on notice to review their policies and practices to confirm they promote a healthy and respectful workplace free of discrimination.
Recent Wage and Hour Investigation Results
Kryger Glass Co. has agreed to pay 53 workers back wages of $107,476. The investigation revealed the company violated overtime and record-keeping provisions when delivery drivers were classified as exempt.
Tangierino Restaurant and Koullshi Lounge pay $77,143 to 22 employees following an investigation. Investigators found some employees, were issued two paychecks, in an attempt to conceal and avoid payment of the legally required overtime premium.
The investigation was part of the wage and hour division’s multiyear enforcement initiative focused on the restaurant industry; an industry that employs some of our country’s lowest-paid workers, who are vulnerable to disparate treatment and labor violations. This is a clear example of systemic enforcement.
Hana Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Louisiana has agreed to pay 135 servers and chefs $114, 978 in back wages. Investigators found the workers were paid a fixed salary, that their hourly wages fell below the minimum wage and the company failed to pay time and one-half for hours worked over forty in a work week.
United Towing & Transport Inc. paid $157,362 in back wages to 72 tow truck drivers and roadside assistance technicians. The investigation found violations of minimum wage and record-keeping provisions. The employer also made illegal wage deductions to pay for damages incurred by vehicles in tow.