The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has approved a Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) that highlights six areas its enforcement efforts will focus on through 2016.

National priorities detailed in the SEP released last week include:

  • Targeting recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities.
  • Protecting immigrant and migrant workers -- who may be unaware of their rights, or are reluctant or unable to exercise them -- from disparate pay, harassment, and trafficking.
  • Focusing on emerging issues in equal employment law, including demographic changes, new legislation, judicial decisions, and administrative interpretations.
  • Enforcing equal pay laws, in particular compensation practices that discriminate based on gender.
  • Targeting practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or which impede the investigative and enforcement efforts.These policies can include retaliatory actions, overly broad waivers, settlement provisions that prohibit filing charges with the EEOC or providing information to assist in the investigation or prosecution of claims, and failure to retain records required by EEOC regulations.
  • Preventing harassment in the workplace through investigations, litigation and targeted outreach campaigns.

In February, the Commission approved a Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016 that required the development of an SEP to establish priorities and integrates the agency's investigation, conciliation and litigation responsibilities in the private and public sectors.The final SEP was approved by the Commission on Dec. 17 and implemented the following day. It builds upon the priorities of the EEOC's Systemic Task Force, created in 2006 with the goal of focusing on systemic cases—those that indicate widespread abuses in a particular industry, profession, company, or geographic area, rather than devoting limited resources to specific, individual complaints.

In formulating its priorities, EEOC drew upon trends found in its past and ongoing caseload. Over the last decade, the number of charges filed against private and public employers increased by more than 22 percent. In Fiscal Year 2012, the EEOC received 99,412 charges of discrimination (85 percent against private employers and 15 percent against state and local government employers). Another 43,467 charges were dual-filed with the EEOC in Fiscal Year 2012, but investigated by state and local fair employment practices agencies.

While the number of complaints filed in the federal sector has decreased by 23 percent over the last decade, the number of allegations of discrimination remains high. Federal employees and applicants filed 16,974 complaints of alleged unlawful employment discrimination in Fiscal Year 2011 (the most recent year available).