Employers and employees alike can benefit from learning about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the government agency that is most directly responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the employment sector.
Although states often protect workers and applicants due to additional immutable characteristics, the EEOC focuses its efforts on combatting workplace discrimination related to age (40 or older), color, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion and sex. In the federal anti-discrimination context, the term “sex discrimination” encompasses all forms of unlawful sex-based mistreatment, including sexual harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, pregnancy and related conditions and gender identity.
What the EEOC does
The EEOC regularly investigates workplace discrimination allegations. These allegations commonly arise due to mistreatment or perceived mistreatment relating to the hiring process, discipline and termination scenarios, compensation and harassment. However, the EEOC has the authority to investigate any workplace circumstance that may be deemed unlawfully discriminatory.
After the EEOC investigates an allegation of workplace discrimination, it issues a finding. It will then either attempt to settle the situation or will release the case so that the affected employee can pursue legal action on their own, should they so choose. If a settlement attempt isn’t successful, the EEOC may opt to file a lawsuit against the employer in question or release the case so that the employee can sue their employer or former employer directly.
By learning about the purpose of the EEOC and how it functions, employers and employees can better understand their anti-discrimination rights and responsibilities under the law. This can allow employers to better understand when they need to adjust their approach to remain in compliance with the law. Meanwhile, employees can better understand when they may be in a position to exercise their rights due to unlawfully discriminatory mistreatment.