The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for eliminating all forms of discrimination in the workplace. Through development and passage of legislation, and its enforcement arm, the agency seeks to reverse the trend of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion and retaliation, as well as age, gender, sexuality, genetics, and physical ability. While its mission is designed to help make the American workplace free of trouble, EEOC’s own operations have sometimes suffered from problems. Recently, the commission moved its Washington D.C., office into a “transitional” neighborhood, much to the dismay of its employees, and it opened a national call center that had union and Democratic members of Congress quite upset.
In the early 1960s, there was growing unrest in the country about racial discrimination and segregation, which came to light as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. In the spring of 1963, demonstrators were attacked with dogs, sprayed with water hoses and arrested or jailed. On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation, and eight days later, he sent new legislation to Congress. Opposition was fierce, but in August, 250,000 Americans marched in Washington D.C., and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In November, President Kennedy was assassinated, leaving the outcome of the civil rights legislation in doubt. But his successor, Lyndon Johnson, a veteran of Capitol Hill, took up the charge and utilized his well-honed legislative skills to push Congress into finishing what Kennedy had started.
On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Among its goals was the elimination of discrimination in the workplace through the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became the most famous aspect of the new legislation, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and retaliation.
The newly created five-member bipartisan commission in charge of the EEOC was given the power to receive, investigate, and conciliate complaints. Only individuals could bring lawsuits, which the EEOC could then refer to the Department of Justice for litigation.
In 1971, Congress conducted public hearings on proposed amendments to Title VII. It concluded that despite its best efforts, the EEOC had failed to stem discrimination. So Congress passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which gave the EEOC litigation enforcement authority. This allowed it to use dispute resolution between workers and employers, such as mediation.
The bill also expanded the EEOC’s jurisdiction. It could now sue nongovernmental employers, unions and agencies, file pattern or practice lawsuits, and eliminate inconsistencies among various federal programs. The 1970s saw increased activity for the EEOC, and by 1977, the agency had a backlog of 94,700 unresolved cases.
The Supreme Court’s Griggs decision, which recognized the indirect impact of discrimination, helped the agency expand its influence. In 1973, the EEOC established task forces to investigate General Electric, General Motors, Ford, and Sears Roebuck. Under Title VII, “commissioner charges” were filed against these employers, and gained settlements for entire classes of victims of discrimination. This was followed by suits filed against nine of the nation’s largest steel producers in 1974, and other major actions against airlines, railroads, and construction and utility companies throughout the rest of the decade.
President Jimmy Carter expanded the power of the EEOC to enforce its rules, which required more changes to the agency. In 1978, Carter signed the Reorganization Plan No. 1 and Executive Order 12067 to consolidate and strengthen the enforcement of all federal equal employment requirements. The EEOC also issued the Uniform Guidelines in connection with the Departments of Labor and Justice, the Office of Revenue Sharing, and the Civil Service Commission. These established the same standards for evaluating selection procedures used in hiring and promoting employees for all employers—private sector employers, federal contractors and grantees, and federal, state, and local governments.
The rest of the 1980s saw the EEOC changing and reassessing its role in the country. It had recently received enforcement authority over the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and civil rights laws applicable to civilian federal employees. It also shifted its focus to the areas of age discrimination, sexual harassment, and national origin bias.
In the 1990s, Congress again expanded the EEOC’s authority, thanks to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Although the commission received little additional funding, it attempted to develop creative enforcement strategies to reduce the backlog of unresolved cases.
On February 6, 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13145, prohibiting discrimination in federal employment based on protected genetic information.
Since 2001, the EEOC staff continued to shrink; as of 2006, it had lost almost 20% of its workforce. The agency was unable to fill vacant jobs because, that year, the George W. Bush administration enacted a partial budget freeze which it blamed on the necessity of re-directing additional funds to homeland security and defense budgets. In June, labor unions and civil rights advocates complained that the staff cuts, along with outsourcing of complaint investigations to an unqualified private contractor, were undermining the agency’s effectiveness. EOCC was said to have suffered a loss of $4.9 million as a result of outsourcing to Kansas-based Pearson Government Solutions. Continued staff cuts saw EEOC’s personnel reduced, in 2008, to 25% of its 2000 level. With the loss of many of its attorneys and case screeners, the agency’s backlog of complaints grew by 26% in a two-year time period.
In 2008, President Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, and in March 2011, the EEOC released its final rule implementing the statute.
In January 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which amended the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That law nullified the 2007 Supreme Court decision that had restricted the ability of victims of discrimination to recover back pay from their employers. Additionally, Obama’s signing of the omnibus spending bill in December of that year restored funding of the EEOC to pre-Bush administration levels.
EEOC History: 1965-2000 (EEOC)
The Top 5 Most Intriguing Decisions In EEOC Cases Of 2010 (by Christopher J. DeGroff and Brandon L. Spurlock, The Workplace Class Action Blog, Seyfarth Shaw LLP)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing laws prohibiting job discrimination. Laws covered by the EEOC include: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The EEOC enforces these laws and others and provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.
It also provides information on how to file a complaint regarding employment discrimination, and it compiles statistics on discrimination complaints and litigation.
The EEOC has five commissioners and a general counsel appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Commissioners are appointed for five-year, staggered terms. The President designates a chair and a vice chair. The chair is the chief executive officer of the commission. Commissioners make equal employment opportunity policy and approve most litigation.
Litigation, the EEOC’s most important enforcement function, is carried out by the general counsel, who serves four years.
The EEOC has several initiatives it is currently undertaking. The E-RACE Initiative seeks to eradicate racism and “colorism” from employment. The Freedom to Compete Initiative is designed to form partnerships, liaisons, and alliances to educate the country’s workforce, deter potential discrimination and promote compliance and sound employment practices. The LEAD Initiative (Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities) is attempting to address the declining number of employees with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce. The New Freedom Initiative is supposed to promote the integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The Youth@Work Initiative seeks to promote equal employment opportunity for young workers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has spent $479.4 million in nearly 23,000 transactions this decade. According to USASpending.gov, the commission paid for a variety of services that included legal ($305.9 million), administrative ($16.5 million), and ADP software ($14.9 million).
The top five contractors were:
From the Web Site of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Birth Control Mandate Was Already Law, Per EEOC
Lost amid the political shouting began in 2011 after President Barack Obama announced most employers must cover birth control in their health insurance plans was the fact that the requirement had been law for more than a decade.
In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decided businesses that provided prescription drugs to their employees had to also provide birth control coverage. This policy decision stood intact all throughout the Bush administration, which did not challenge the EEOC’s ruling that offered no exemption for religious employers.
“It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”
Most of Obama's "Controversial" Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years (by Nick Baumann, Mother Jones)
EEOC Office Move Creates Conflict with Employees
In May 2007, the EEOC came into conflict with its employees when it moved its headquarters from downtown Washington D.C. to a rougher transitional neighborhood known as NoMa. The move was part of general cost-cutting measures the agency had been making in order to reduce a backlog of unresolved cases. Many employees described the situation among workers as mutinous, due to the relocation to a high crime neighborhood filled with dance clubs and warehouses.
EEOC Headquarters Move Stirs Revolt Among Staff (by Bill Leonard, Society for Human Resource Management)
President Obama has turned to a veteran civil rights attorney, Jacqueline A. Berrien, to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent agency responsible for eliminating all forms of discrimination in the workplace. Although she was nominated July 17, 2009, Berrien was not confirmed by the Senate until April 7, 2010, Her nomination was greeted warmly by civil rights activists and others on the left, but at least one right-wing organization, Americans for Limited Government, has criticized Berrien as an “ideologue” who “finds racism in everything.”
A native of Newport News, Virginia, Naomi Churchill Earp has served as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since August 31, 2006, after serving as vice chair beginning on April 28, 2003. Her current term expires on July 1, 2010.