While speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference on March 18, 2014, legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Peggy R. Mastroianni identified seven areas that the agency plans to increase enforcement efforts on over the next several months. Mastroianni noted that these areas often produce claims that have low damage amounts, which prevents many private attorneys from taking them. The areas are:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Amendments to the ADA require disability to be construed broadly in favor of coverage of individuals. The EEOC is focusing on these cases to ensure that the goals of the ADA are effected.
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – Title II of GINA prohibits discrimination against employees or applicants based on genetic information. Employers and other covered entities cannot request, require, or purchase genetic information, and disclosure of genetic information is strictly limited. Only 333 GINA charges were filed with the EEOC in 2013, but this is one of the areas that is growing.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act – This act prohibits sex discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers must treat women affected by pregnancy or childbirth the same for all employment-related purposes as employees not so affected.
- Coverage of LBGT individuals under Title VII – Even though federal law does not currently prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals because of their sexual orientation, the EEOC has brought cases under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions. Over the past few years, the EEOC has argued that these claims fall under Title VII by asserting that sexual orientation is a stereotype of gender. The agency will continue to bring these cases.
- Enforcing equal pay laws, especially in cases of alleged gender discrimination – According to Mastroianni, the EEOC received over 5,000 claims of wage discrimination based on gender in 2013. The EEOC will continue to seek strong enforcement in this area.
- Preserving access to the legal system – A string of U.S. Supreme Court cases over the last several years has made it increasingly difficult for plaintiffs to circumvent arbitration agreements in favor of litigation. The EEOC is on the lookout for arbitration and separation agreements that require employees to waive their rights to complain to the EEOC.
- Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement – 21,317 harassment charges were filed with the EEOC in 2013. According to Mastroianni, the EEOC is “not concerned,” with those one-on-one harassment cases. Rather, it will seek to identify and litigate cases of systemic racial and sexual harassment.