The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) has released a proposal with intent to expand enforcement efforts to include additional focus on systemic racism and artificial intelligence in the workplace. The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for 2023-2027 focuses on systemic racism in the workplace, vulnerability of immigrant workers, and the potential for unregulated AI and technology to perpetuate discrimination. Due to recent political events and listening sessions hosted by the EEOC, extra attention has been brought to evolving workplace issues. This new proposal is proof that the EEOC is watching and listening.

Goals Of The New SEP

This new SEP highlights prejudicial use of automated systems and artificial intelligence as a hiring barrier. It has also widened its definition of “vulnerable workers’ ‘ to explicitly include LGBTQ+ individuals, and it revised its “emerging issue” priority to involve bias associated with COVID-19.

New EEOC Priorities

There are multiple priorities that the EEOC has identified in the SEP. A number of these priorities are closely related to the ones identified in the previous SEP that covered the years 2017-2021. The following is a list of these matters.

  • Prevent and remedying systemic harassment: This is a “key subject matter priority”, the SEP highlights that the EEOC is set on combating this persistent problem.
  • Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring processes: The goal is to eliminate barriers stemming from purportedly exclusionary job advertisements or restrictive/inaccessible application systems.
  • Protecting vulnerable workers, and persons from underserved communities, from employment discrimination: This is not a new area of focus, but one that the EEOC is continuing with the intent on broadening access to jobs for workers from underrepresented communities.
  • Addressing selected emerging and developing issues such as violations of the newly enacted Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: This will require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions. It also prohibits employers from requiring pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.
  • Advancing equal pay for all workers: The EEOC intends to use pay data to pick out employers for pay equity cases. It will also confront the use of salary history and requests for desired salary when setting up pay.
  • Preserving access to the legal system: The EEOC is intending to address releases, confidentiality agreements, and arbitration agreements that they believe improperly restricts access to the legal systems.

The EEOC is the primary federal agency that is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability and genetic information. The purpose of the SEP is to produce clear guidelines with the goal of advancing equal employment opportunity to all and prevent unlawful discrimination in employment.

When Does This SEP Go Into Effect?

The draft SEP was published in the Federal Register on January 10th, as a result of the Commission voting unanimously. The public commenting period on this SEP has now closed. The final SEP is now subject to approval by a formal vote of the full Commission.

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