Updated EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan 5 Feb 2017


Without a designated legal team guiding you through the hiring process, it’s difficult to navigate updates to regulations – such as the recent EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). Perfecting your knowledge of employment requirements including race, religion, and gender may not seem like a problem until you’re stuck in a sticky situation with a former – or current – team member.

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) released new priorities that directly affect employers. To help you manage the changes, we put together an explanation of the plan and how to make sure you’re not discriminating against employees during the screening process.

Defining the EEOC

The EEOC is the group of regulating officials created by Congress that enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination against a job applicant or employee. The regulations encompass many human factors including the three listed above (race, religion, and gender), along with nationality, age, disability, or genetic information.

Under the EEOC’s ruling, employers are also prohibited from discriminating against an employee that complains about discrimination or files a charge of discrimination.

See what we mean? The guidelines tend to be confusing, especially when you’re juggling recruitment, training, and internal compliance.

EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan: What it Means for Employers

In October 2016, the EEOC announced a new series of enforcement priorities that it plans to focus on over the next five years.

In an official release from the federal department, EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang stated, “This SEP builds on the EEOC’s progress in addressing persistent and developing issues by sharpening the agency’s areas of focus and updating the plan to recognize additional areas of emerging concern.”

“The solid foundation laid by the Commission’s first SEP positions the EEOC to concentrate on coordinating strategies and solutions for these core areas to ensure freedom from workplace discrimination.”

Key areas of focus for the new plan include:

● Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring.
● Protecting immigrants, migrants, and underserved employees from discrimination.
● Promoting equal pay protection for all workers.
● Preserving access to the legal system.
● Preventing harassment in the workplace.

Breaking Down the EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan: What’s Involved?

Each of the five factors listed above are a focus of the new EEOC SEP – so we urge you to keep those in mind when hiring and recruiting new employees. You need to make the best decision for your organization, but you can, in no way, rule out an employee for reasons based on race, religion, gender, or nationality.

During your employment screening process, you should rely on the information gathered during background checks, reference interviews, or former employment verifications to justify the validity of the candidate. Working directly with a partner that specializes in the employment screening process, as well as EEOC and FCRA Compliance, helps you avoid issues that fall under the protection of the EEOC.

Now we’re going to break down some of these areas of focus in the EEOC SEP and look at what it means for you – the employer.

First, the SEP is seeking to group together all discrimination reports, making these systematic cases instead of stand-alone cases. The organization began taking action in the summer of 2016, when it released the final revision to its 18-year-old Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation, substantially broadening its reach. This can help HR professionals that may have questions about discrimination cases. By grouping cases together, it may be easier to find examples of previous occurrences and help you solve internal problems before they explode.

In addition, the EEOC is cracking down on unlawful harassment. This is an area of focus in the strategic plan that will provide extensive research, analysis, and deliberation, to explain the legal standards applicable to harassment claims under federal employment discrimination laws. These laws protect employees from harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.

Immigration is a hot topic in the media thanks to the election of President Donald Trump. The EEOC protects the rights of immigrants by restricting the discrimination of foreign nationals. The organization’s plan covers immigrants and people who descend from immigrants. It also fights against discrimination by a member of a national group against someone from the same group. The civil rights protection also covers those who simply appear to come from a certain ethnic background.

Finally, another hot topic, the EEOC’s SEP has a strong focus on reducing religious discrimination. The reason for making religion an area of imperative importance is because the number of religious discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has doubled in the past 20 years.

By understanding the basics of the plan, you can successfully navigate the hiring and employment process to avoid cases of discrimination. The best way to hire a new team member and avoid conflict is by implementing a thorough screening process with comprehensive background checks.

Find a partner you can trust to simplify your hiring process.