The Chair appeared to signal that reigning in litigation and interpreting EEOC jurisdiction more narrowly are areas of focus.
EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon has released her 2020 priorities, which she says are rooted in the Commission’s mission to “Prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace” and its vision of “Respectful and inclusive workplaces with equal employment opportunity for all.”
Dhillon’s priorities “build on the EEOC’s proud legacy of civil rights accomplishments, and share the common theme of excellence, strategic innovation, and collaboration.” Notably, although conducting its litigation as “vigorous advocates,” is in the picture, so is recognizing “that litigation is truly a last resort and not an appropriate substitute for rule-making or legislation.” And interpreting the scope of the agency’s jurisdiction more narrowly is also on the Chair’s radar.
First priority: Continuing to provide excellent customer service. Dhillon listed five priorities, identifying the first as continuing to be responsive to employees who raise claims of discrimination in the workplace. To meet this priority the Commission will continue its:
- Commitment to handling discrimination claims promptly and fairly, including a continuation of the focus on Priority Charge Handling Procedures, Quality Enforcement Practices, and Federal Sector Quality Practices to effectively manage active workloads and reduce inventory levels in private and public sector charges and federal sector hearings and appeals.
- Commitment to embracing technology and leveraging its power to improve the agency’s service to all stakeholders.
- Commitment to upgrading the Commission’s data collection, analysis, and reporting capabilities, which will enable the agency to use modern data analytics to facilitate data-driven decision-making.
- Commitment to supporting the agency’s front-line employees to enable them to maintain their focus on providing excellent customer service.
Second priority: Continuing to provide robust compliance assistance. Here, Dhillon noted that the first word in the EEOC’s mission statement is “prevent.” Everyone’s work at the EEOC contributes to the goal of preventing discrimination in the workplace. To provide robust compliance assistance to ensure equal opportunity, the Commission will continue to focus on:
- Providing high-quality, easy-to-understand education and outreach in the private, public, and federal sectors.
- Prioritizing outreach to the small business community.
- Continuing to build strong partnerships with employer and advocacy groups.
- Updating guidance and technical assistance documents (where appropriate) to ensure that they represent a clear explanation of the law, and rescinding those documents that are out of date, raise the potential for confusion among stakeholders, or exceed the Commission’s statutory authority.
- Ensuring active monitoring and tracking of compliance elements in settlement and conciliation agreements and consent decrees.
Third priority: Enhancing efforts to reach vulnerable workers. The EEOC Chair noted that the EEOC “serves a unique and significant role in the enforcement of civil rights laws in the workplace.” During 2020, the Commission we will re-examine its efforts to reach vulnerable workers and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that it is identifying, reaching, and effectively serving—through outreach, enforcement, and litigation—vulnerable workers throughout the nation.
Fourth priority: Strategically allocating Commission resources. The EEOC will continue to make effective use of available resources, allocating those resources to tasks that will have the maximum impact on fulfilling its mission by:
- Continuing to build on its successful mediation program in the private and federal sectors.
- Making a renewed commitment to meaningful and effective conciliation efforts in all private sector matters.
- Conducting its litigation as vigorous advocates and to the highest ethical standards, while recognizing that its mission is to enforce the law and that litigation is truly a last resort and not an appropriate substitute for rule-making or legislation.
- Partnering with other government agencies to advance common interests and eliminate confusion among stakeholders, while recognizing that the EEOC cannot seek to enforce statutes outside of its jurisdiction or seek remedies that are not authorized under the laws that the EEOC is authorized to enforce.
Fifth priority: Continuing the EEOC’s efforts to be a model workplace. In her final priority, Dhillon said that the EEOC can best accomplish its mission with a productive, inclusive, and diverse workforce, and thus will continue to:
- Fully embrace the principles of equal employment in its own workplace, recognizing that doing so creates an environment that enhances the EEOC’s overall effectiveness.
- Foster a culture of inclusion and respect, and support collaboration and strategic innovation among all employees.
- Support its employees by providing them with the tools and resources they need to be successful in their jobs.
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