The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) refers to a United States’ law enforcement agency that is mainly concerned about setting laws intended to protect individuals against workplace discrimination. EEOC mainly investigates cases of discrimination filed by different complaints from all walks of life including those based on age, physical disability, ethnicity, nationality and religion. EEOC further investigates discrimination complaints resulting from individuals’ subjection to retaliation for reporting or participating in antidiscrimination demonstrations (Sandra, 1997). In 2011, the commission expanded its operations to include sex-stereotyping, which mainly includes investigating cases associated with discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The commission protected this category of people under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which mainly termed sex discrimination illegal. EEOC however expanded provisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protection of transgender identity (Dobbin, 2009). EEOC further intervenes and settles disputes relating to different forms of discrimination before any investigations are carried out. The commission is also authorized to file litigations on behalf of complainants against employers so as to adjudicate allegations that may be brought to the law enforcement agencies (Golland, 2011). This paper aims at analyzing activities linked to this commission so as to determine what it does or does not do.
What EEOC does or does not do
The history of EEOC dates back in 1961 when the then US president, John F. Kennedy, realized the need to address rampant discrimination cases within the workplace. Prior to this establishment, most Americans only believed in the potential capacity of the law to equally protect all citizens. They thus expected the president, legal institutions and the Congress to fulfill all the requirements highlighted in the 14th Amendment, which included ensuring a fair treatment on all individuals irrespective of their religion, race, ethnicity and nationality (Sandra, 1997). In response to this concern the three arms of the US government debated over an important question relating to whether the various provisions within the constitution were sufficiently addressing cases of discrimination (Lockard, 1968). A major question revolving around this debate included establishing whether the constitution’s prohibitions as highlighted in the 14th Amendment were sufficiently addressing discrimination cases relating to race, ethnicity and gender orientation. This saw the Congress devising a new public law, under statute 241, whose provisions prohibited sex discrimination during deployment, promotion and dismissal (Blau, 1977). The word sex was later added to the bill so as to prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals during hiring, compensation and promotion because of their sex orientation. The bill equally allowed sex to be given special consideration in circumstances where it was an added advantage to occupational qualification for a particular job position (Dobbin, 2009).
The president then signed an administrative order that demanded for federal contractors to take positive actions by ensuring that applicants were fairly considered for respective job positions. The order further demanded that employees would always receive fair treatment during their term of employment without the employer exhibiting any form of discrimination based on race, religion, disability, ethnicity and nationality (Calvasina, 2009). The order led to establishment of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, which later became a predecessor for EEOC. The president’s committee however lasted only for a short period of time as a mandate demanding for the establishment of EEOC had been highlighted under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The commission was thus established in 1965 and it had the opportunity to serve the first plaintiffs that included female flight attendants (Golland, 2011).
The president has the central responsibility to appoint key members of the commission although they have to be confirmed by the senate. Stuart Ishimaru was for example, a commissioner that had been confirmed by the senate to stand as the Acting Chair for the period between 2003 and 2006. He was then replaced by Jacqueline Berrien in 2010 when she was confirmed by the senate to be the commission’s chairperson even though she had been selected by the president in July 2009. Although the president made three recent appointments in 2010 to make a full complement of five commissioners of the EEOC’s General Counsel, these appointments awaits the approval of the senate to allow the new members to take over the office. The person appointed as the chairperson of the commission is usually bestowed with the core responsibility to administer and execute policies as well as promote financial and organizational advancement of the commission (Sandra, 1997). The vice chairperson and EEOC’s commissioners share the responsibility to approve the commission policies oversee investigations on claims for discrimination and authorize litigations when any form of discrimination is identified. A general counsel that is usually appointed along with the commissioners is responsible for the coordination of the commission’s lawsuit program. EEOC’s meetings are always open to members of the public as required by state in the Sunshine Act, although privacy can sometimes be employed particularly when the commission is addressing issues exempted in the Act. Public involvement however does not entail direct participant or any form of misconduct by observers (Dobbin, 2009). Traditionally, the commission holds its regular meetings on the third Wednesday of every month although some meetings can be scheduled on any other day within the month depending on urgency to address a pending issue. The agendas for an upcoming meeting are usually communicated through the Federal Register on weekly basis before a meeting (Golland, 2011).
The commission during its initial stages of operation had ignored plaintiffs presenting cases related to sex discrimination, which saw any prohibition against this form of discrimination going without being addressed for several years. Subsequent legislation however diversified the role of EEOC, which allowed it to address a wide range of discrimination issues including those based on sex. The commission thus expanded its operations to address all forms of employment-related discrimination including those based on age, sex, color, race, ethnicity and nationality. The new development however attributed to drastic increase in the number of cases that had to be investigated by 1975 (Blau, 1977). A backlog of more than 100,000 pending cases saw Gerald Ford, the then president of the commission, requesting for the approval of a $62 million budget to help address the pending cases. This was followed by the creation of a “Backlog Unit” in 1978, which would be used to address a huge number of equal employment cases that streamed from the Civil Service Commission. A report to the Congress by Eleanor Holmes described the backlog cases a significant workload that required approval of an additional budget to help eliminate the backlog (Calvasina, 2009). This saw the Civil Rights and Labor Union publicly blaming a strained budget and severe staff cutoff for EEOC’s high rate of ineffectiveness. A partial budget freeze for example prevented the commission from filling vacant employment positions, which saw its overall workforce shrinking by nearly 20% in 2006 (Dobbin, 2009). The Bush administration explained that the freeze was necessary so as to allow for the allocation of more funds to the department of homeland security. By 2008, the commission had lost more than 25% of its overall staff that included lawyers and investigators that could handle a huge number of complaints (Sandra, 1997). The number of backlog cases during this period thus grew to 95,000, which was equivalent to 26% increase from 2006.
Sufficient evidence however indicates that EEOC has throughout history made tremendous progress in addressing issues related to equal employment. According to Golland, (2011), the commission had for example managed to ensure that all arms of the government had by 1970 taken at least some actions intended to meet the equal employment provisions as highlighted in the law. With the commission serving as the arm for implementation and complaint, it has its activism demarcated into liberals and conservatives. The two categories of activist groups held different views pertaining to right scope that the government should take to promote the equal employment provisions highlighted within the law. The political liberals were supportive of the role that EEOC played in enhancing creation of a federal regulatory unit that could help to reach the objective for equality by developing a policy that would protect disadvantaged populations including women and minority groups (Teri, 2002). Conversely, political conservatives objected the various activities carried out by EEOC, and as such, they viewed it as a waste of government resources and a violation of various government regulations and policies. These conservatives thought that a different perspective that would include creating a strong economy would help to address equality issues that oppressed disadvantaged populations in the society (Zank, 1996). Subsequent successes have however disapproved claims by the political conservatives as EEOC has proven to make significant progress in benefiting historically disadvantaged populations. Statistical evidence has for example shown that EEOC was during the 1997 fiscal year able to collect over eleven million dollars, which was used to compensate various individuals that had filed complaints of discrimination (Sandra, 1997).
EEOC enforces various laws in its attempt to promote the concept of equal employment opportunity for all individuals in the society. Among the various laws enforced by this commission include the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. According to this law, no single individual should be discriminated against because of his/her age, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender orientation and religion (Teri, 2002). The law further prohibits individuals from retaliating against others because of any complains or protest against any form of discrimination. It also demands that employers should accommodate employees professing different religious beliefs. The only reason that would cause applicants and employees to not be accommodated within organizations is if their religious beliefs and practices attributed to undue hardships that would hinder them from contributing the overall mission of the employer’s larger organization (Dobbin, 2009).
EEOC further enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is a modified version of Title VII that prohibits employers from discriminating against women due to maternity-related issues. The law further prohibits any individual within the workplace from retaliating against someone because he/she complained or protested against any form of discrimination as specified in this Act. Another important law that is closely related to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying unequal salaries to men and women that might be performing similar duties within similar environment due to their gender orientation (Lola, 1997). The law further prohibits individuals from retaliating against someone for having complained or protested against this form of discrimination. EEOC also enforces the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which is a significant law that prohibits individuals from discriminating against anybody aged forty years and above. This law also prohibits individuals from retaliating against those that might have complained, filed a law suit or assisted in investigations related to this type of discrimination. The Title I of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 prohibits any form of discrimination against individuals that may be qualified for any position within the private sector or local governments because of disability (Golland, 2011). It also prohibits individuals from retaliating against others for complaining or protesting against this form of discrimination. It also demands for employers to make a well known description relating to the physical and mental conditions that may be exempted from qualities of a qualified but disabled applicant or employee. Such exemptions should only include cases of disability that might hinder an applicant or an employee from effectively contributing to the employer’s organization (Zank, 1996). EEOC also enforces sections 102 and 103 of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which fixes provisions made under Title VII of the 1990 American with Disability Act so as to protect employees from facing prejudices based on compensations may have been done on purpose (Calvasina, 2010). The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 is also enforced by this commission, and it prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their genetic information. The genetic information that employers are not allowed to use in discriminating against applicants or employees includes genetic labs, diseases or disorders that a person or any member of his/her family may be living with. It also prohibits individuals from retaliating against those that might complain or protest against this form of discrimination (Lola, 1997).
Although EEOC is committed to enforce different laws to promote equal employment among individuals in the society, it states that a charge must exhibit the fact that a person being subjected to employment discrimination belongs to one of the various protected categories. Among the various protected categories that EEOC has highlighted include race, nationality, age, religious orientation, sex and physical or mental disability. According to Ann (1996), EEOC’s statutes thus prohibit any member of a protected class from discriminating or retaliating against another person belonging to the protected class. An example of a statute that prohibits this type of discrimination is Title VII which prohibits male supervisors or seniors from sexually exploiting their male subordinates because of their sex orientation. The commission has also enforced statutes that prohibit individuals from discriminating against individuals belonging to a subclass of a protected class. On basis of these statutes, EEOC for example prohibits employers from discriminating against women with young children if they hire men with children of similar age (Calvasina, 2010).
The commission has further enforced statutes that prohibit intersectional discrimination in that individuals cannot be discriminated against simply because they belong to more than one protected category. An example of a statute prohibiting intersectional discrimination is Title VII, which demands that employers should not exhibit any form of prejudice against African-American men even if it does not exhibit any form of prejudice against white men or African American women (Zank, 1996). The commission further enforces statutes that prohibit any form of prejudice against individuals because of existing stereotypical assumptions about a certain protected group. Employers for example should not exhibit any form of prejudice against women because stereotypical assumptions claiming that women are aggressive or weak compared to men (Lola, 1997).
Title VII is one of the major statutes that EEOC uses to fight different forms of discrimination while promoting equal employment opportunities for various individuals within the society. According to the provision under this Title, employers should not exhibit prejudice against individuals because of their racial orientation, nationality, religious background and sex. Although Title VII prohibits prejudices against individuals because of their color and racial orientation, courts addressing discrimination cases do not often distinguish between color and race, and as such, investigators need not to be specific on whether victims of employment discrimination were subjected to prejudice that was based on race or color. They should thus base their investigation of general characteristics that can be associated with either color or race. The EEOC investigators for example do not make inquiries on the victims relating to color or race, but they just make assumptions about a victim’s race depending on physical characteristics (Calvasina, 2010). On this note, EEOC interprets racial discrimination as a form of discrimination that is based on particular characteristics that are usually associated with a certain race. While such allegations may exhibit the victim and perpetrator of discriminative actions as belonging to the same race, Title VII prohibits employers from showing any type of prejudice against employees because of physical characteristics (Ann, 1996). The commission further interprets racial discrimination as a form of discrimination that may be based on skin color. Title VII thus prohibits employers from showing prejudice against individuals because of the shade of their skin color. Employers are for example prohibited from discriminating against dark colored African-Americans although they may not be discriminating against light-colored African-Americans. Through Title VII, EEOC protects individuals that may be associated with an individual belonging to a certain race from any form of discrimination. Employers are for example prohibited from showing prejudice against employees because they might have a certain type of association with an African-American.
EEOC further employs provisions highlighted in Title VII to protect individuals from being subjected to prejudices based on their nationality or the ethnic, linguistic and physical attributes associated with their country of origin. The commission does not give specific characteristics that can be used to distinguish between racial and nationality discrimination because the two discrimination categories tend to overlap. In order to define nationality discrimination, EEOC investigates allegations that employers may have exhibited some form of discrimination against individuals because of their accent, mode of talking and language fluency. Through provisions highlighted in Title VII, the commission thus prohibits employers from creating rules that might demand employees to speak fluent English within the workplace. EEOC further prohibits nationality discrimination that may be based on multilingualism (Zank, 1996). The commission for example prohibits employers from demanding multilingual employees to perform more duties compared to the unilingual employees without receiving extra pay. EEOC further employs provisions under Title VII to protect individuals from discrimination based on citizenship by ensuring all persons working in the United States are protected by covered employers irrespective of their citizenship status (Ann, 1996).
EEOC is also committed to protect individuals within the workplace from any form of discrimination that might be based on religious orientation. According to EEOC, religion defines moral and ethical beliefs that people professing a certain type of faith use to describe what is right or wrong, and to which they cling with strong traditional views. The commission employs a broad definition of this concept to ensure that individuals within the workplace are not subjected to any form of prejudice irrespective of how broad their religious beliefs and practices might be. On this note, the commission does not make any specific analysis to determine whether something is religious or not, which would be inappropriate for the government. It thus employs provisions highlighted in Title VII to ensure that employers offer sufficient accommodation for individuals professing different religious practices without exhibit the slightest form of religious discrimination (Lola, 1997).
EPA is another important statute that EEOC employs to promote equal employment opportunities for individuals within the workplace. Through this statute, EEOC protects individuals from compensation prejudices that may be based on a person’s gender orientation. If allegations relating to sex discrimination are made to the commission, investigators usually treat such allegations as an act of violation on Title VII and EPA statutes. EEOC also employs EDEA to protect individuals against any form of discrimination based on age, thereby promoting equal employment opportunities among individuals within the society (Calvasina, 2010). Through this statute, EEOC prohibits prejudices that may be exhibited between members of a protected category and between individuals within and outside a protected category. The commission however does not employ this statute to protect individuals below the age of forty from prejudices based on age. The commission can only employ this statute to protect this category of people from any form of retaliation that might result when they complain, participate in investigations, file a court case or any other form of protest against age discrimination. The commission also employs this statute to protect individuals from any form of discrimination that might be based on employees’ duration of service. The commission for example prohibits employers from exhibiting any form of prejudice against individuals simply because they may have been serving the organization for a long time (Ann, 1996).
EEOC has devised a particular complaint process that victims should follow when filing allegations pertaining to any form of discrimination from their employers. On this note, EEOC only accepts allegations from victims working either as federal employees or applicants of a particular job. The victims should also belong a particular protected category as EEOC’s provides supports only to people facing a particular form of prejudice based on their racial background, color, religious stand, sex, nationality, physical or mental disability and age (Teri, 2002). The commission however does not enforce laws protecting any other form of prejudice that may be based on other aspects that include marital status, gender presentation, political affiliation or parental background. If members belonging to the exempted categories are applicants or federal employees and they feel that an employer has exhibited some form of prejudice against them, they have the right to file a law suit but their cases would solely be handled by the court without any participation from EEOC (Northrup, 1965). The commission demands that each federal department should provide revenant information on how complainants can contact its office. The victims should then contact the EEOC counselor and provide relevant information relating to where they work or have applied for work. This should take place within 45 days after the said incidence of discrimination has taken place. In most instances, the EEOC counselor advises the complainants on the available options to address their issues depending on whether they opt to attend an EEOC counseling session or a dispute resolution program (Calvasina, 2010). If the victims are not satisfied with the resolutions reached during the counseling or mediation sessions, the commission allows them to file an official complaint with the agency against the perpetrator of discriminatory actions.
The commission then takes over the complaint and establishes whether it should be investigated or dropped for any procedural reasons. If the complaint is proven to have met all the procedural requirements like meeting the suspense date, the commission sets aside up to 180 days to complete the entire investigation related to the case. The commission then issues a notice at the end of the investigation process, which either requests for a hearing with the EEOC Administrative Judge or requests the commission to make a decision relating to whether the alleged complaint really took place (Golland, 2011). If the complaint is proven to be untrue, the complainant is given two options, which include filing an appeal or request for a second hearing. If the complainant opts to ask for another hearing, they make a written request for a seating with the EEOC Administrative Judge within 30 days after receiving a memo from the commission explaining the hearing rights. The EEOC Administrative Judge then determines the results of the hearing and requests for a relief if she/he concludes that a certain type of prejudice did really take place (Sandra, 1997).
The commission upon receiving the results from the EEOC Administrative Judge gives a final order in which it states its ultimate decision and whether the requested relief should be granted. The commission then takes up to forty days to make a final order, and as such, it offers the same duration of time to the EEOC Administrative Judge and his complainant to dispute to EEOC if they do not agree with the final decision made by the commission. The dispute should be filed within thirty days after receiving the final EEOC order after which the EEOC appellate will search through every document related to the complaint, including investigation reports, hearing statements, the EEOC Administrative Judge results and all appeal statements (Ann, 1996). A complainant can also request for a reconsideration of the results if he/she does not agree with the results provided by the commission. The request can however be issued if the complainant is able to prove that the results were faulty because of a mistake related to the case or the law. The commission can then request for a reevaluation of the results if the request for reconsideration filed by the complainant is granted. The commission then makes an ultimate decision about the complaint, and an administrative process for filing a law suit is adopted (Calvasina, 2009).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a well established agency that has made significant progress in preventing different forms of discrimination against individuals within the workplace. The agency was established in 1965 when the then US president and members of the Congress realized the need to establish an independent body to help implement antidiscrimination provisions made in the constitution. The agency first started as the President’s committee that served within the first years of the 1960s, but it was later replaced by the EEOC commission in 1965. Although critiques claimed that EEOC was an ineffective agency that only attributed to a waste of government resources, evidence indicates that the commission made tremendous successes in that it managed to address a wide range of employment discrimination cases. Although such critiques had merely been based on the huge number of backlog cases that were yet to be addressed, it is obvious that lack of sufficient financial resources were to blame. The commission has however made remarkable progress in addressing varying categories of employment discrimination cases including those based on age, sex, nationality, religious orientation and race. EEOC has enforced different statutes that include Title VII, ADEA, EPA and ADA to protect different categories of disadvantaged populations from any form of discrimination. The commission has also established a procedural process that complainants can follow when seeking for legal intervention from EEOC. The complainants should begin by filing a complaint with the commission, undergo counseling sessions, await official investigations and file a law suit with EEOC. The commission also allows complainants to make appeals when they are not satisfied with investigations at any given point.
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