The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Sept. 21 released its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for fiscal years 2024-2028. New for these years, the document emphasizes the EEOC's efforts to protect workers from discrimination involving artificial intelligence, pregnancy and long COVID.
"Through the SEP's effective implementation, the agency will continue to advance equality and justice for all in workplaces across this nation, even as significant challenges remain," EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement.
According to the SEP, the EEOC plans to:
- Target discrimination, bias and hate directed against religious minorities, racial or ethnic groups, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Expand the vulnerable and underserved worker priority to include additional categories of workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, may be reluctant or unable to exercise their legally protected rights or have historically been underserved by federal employment discrimination protections.
- Update the emerging and developing issues priority to include protecting workers impacted by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including under the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and other EEO laws; employment discrimination associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19 symptoms; and technology-related employment discrimination.
- Highlight the continued underrepresentation of women and workers of color in certain industries and sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, finance, tech and other science, technology, engineering and math fields.
- Recognize employers' increasing use of technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to target job advertisements, recruit applicants, and make or assist in hiring and other employment decisions.
- Preserve access to the legal system by addressing overly broad waivers, releases, nondisclosure agreements or nondisparagement agreements when they restrict workers' ability to obtain remedies for civil rights violations.
The new SEP also commits the EEOC to supporting employer efforts to proactively identify and address barriers to equal employment opportunity, cultivate a diverse pool of qualified workers and foster inclusive workplaces.
SHRM Online has provided additional news on this topic.
SEP Focuses on AI Hiring Bias
The new SEP prioritizes addressing discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices related to an employer's use of AI and machine learning to target, recruit and screen potential applicants or make hiring decisions that exclude protected groups on the basis of color, sex, race or other EEOC enforced statutes.
Listening Sessions Informed SEP
The EEOC hosted three listening sessions that focused on racial and economic justice, vulnerable workers and other issues related to the agency's strategic enforcement priorities. The commission heard from nearly three dozen witnesses representing civil rights and workers' rights organizations; employer and HR representatives; and attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants in EEO matters. The EEOC also solicited public feedback in the Federal Register.
Agency Released Its Strategic Plan in August
The EEOC's strategic plan aims to make the agency more accessible to the public and boost training and resources for investigations. The strategic plan serves as an overarching framework for achieving the EEOC's mission; the SEP works together with the strategic plan by establishing substantive law enforcement priorities.
SEP Extends 'Olive Branch' to Employers
The EEOC's new SEP extends an olive branch to employers, imploring them to proactively identify and dismantle barriers to equal employment opportunity, cultivate diverse talent pools and foster inclusive workspaces.
EEOC Digs into Harassment, Pay Discrimination and AI
Sexual harassment, pay discrimination and AI are among the priorities that the EEOC will focus on in 2023 in its guidance and enforcement efforts, according to EEOC Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels, who spoke at the SHRM Employment Law & Compliance Conference in February.