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The 5 Ws of the EEOC (or why it does what it does)

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Many businesses understand the importance of advertising themselves as an equal opportunity employer. But companies may not be familiar with the government agency that enforces this law and exactly what they do

Who: The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and it is “responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

What: The EEOC is responsible for interpreting and enforcing these civil rights laws:

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the private sector and in state and local governments. In general, the law also requires reasonable accommodations for a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of age.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information, which includes an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of a family member and information about a disease, disorder or condition of a family member.

All of these laws make it illegal to retaliate against a person for complaining about discrimination, filing a related charge or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Where: When we talk about federal government agencies, it is easy to picture them as far away, perhaps only in Washington D.C. The EEOC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. but has 53 field offices throughout the country.

When: The EEOC began operating on July 2, 1965,  one year after President Johnson signed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Why: The role of the EEOC is to fairly and accurately assess allegations of discrimination. If the EEOC finds that discrimination has occurred, they try to settle the charge. The EEOC has the authority to sue to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.

The EEOC also works to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs.

Recommendations: When terminating or disciplining employees, it is always good to ask if your company is using a consistent practice. Trying to be generous to one employee, can appear discriminatory to another. Remaining consistent in your approach is important to avoid an EEOC investigation. A best practice would be to have an employee handbook that outlines specific policies and procedures for termination and discipline. BCN Services recommends discussing difficult or questionable terminations with your HR representative before taking action to avoid any problems.

The above is information about the agency taken from the website.