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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
What Is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?
The EEOC is a federal agency that helps enforce federal employment anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC is in charge of monitoring complaints and ensuring compliance with all the laws and protections associated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII.
The EEOC has the power to ensure these laws are enforced by collecting reports, investigating charges, helping facilitate agreements between plaintiffs and employers, and helping tobring discrimination cases to court.
History of the EEOC
The EEOC was created to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
When the EEOC was first created, it focused on preventing unlawful employment practice through informal methods. In 1972, when the Civil Rights Act was amended, Congress gave more power to the EEOC – specifically the power to bring lawsuits to the federal courts on behalf of the person who filed an unlawful discrimination complaint. In 1972, a change was made that allowed one individual to bring a suit on behalf of a whole class of individuals.
How Does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Protect Employees?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ensures all applicants and employees are treated fairly. The EEOC helps follow up on discrimination charges to ensure that applicants and employees are not discriminated against. If the EEOC does find discrimination prejudice, it will take the necessary next steps to correct the situation: either mediation or litigation (bringing the case to court).
The EEOC ensures protection for those who file a discrimination charge. An employee who files a charge with the EEOC can’t be retaliated against, meaning they can’t be fired or reprimanded for filing a charge. If they are, the EEOC will step in and protect the employee.
Types of Discrimination Covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
There are many classes of people protected by the EEOC. These protections ensure people are not missing out on work opportunities, being fired, or being harassed at work simply because of their race, color, religion, age, or national origin.
People are protected in many ways from racial harassment. All applicants and employees are protected against derogatory comments, verbal harassment, graffiti, racist jokes, name-calling, and any other form of degrading conduct.
It is important to note the employer can be liable for harassment done by supervisors, co-workers, customers, and clients. It is the job of your company to take reasonable action to prevent and eliminate harassment.
Employees are protected for what they believe and how they practice these beliefs. Employers may not fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to train an employee due to their religion.
As an employer, you are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees to practice their religion, such as wearing certain religious clothing or celebrating religious holidays (as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship to the company or cause a safety hazard).
No preferential treatment can be given to either sex, unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) justifies it. A BFOQ is a qualification that allows the organization to discriminate based on sex, religion, or national orgin if it is a necessity to the normal operations of the organization. This portion of Title VII also protects employees from sexual harassment.
Applicants and employees over 40 are protected from age-based discrimination. An employer can’t refuse to hire or promote someone because of their age.
Employers are required to treat pregnancy and any related medical conditions the same as any other medical issue. This doesn’t mean pregnant women are given special privileges; employers can fire or not hire pregnant women, as long as this decision is not based on the fact the woman is pregnant.
How to Stay Compliant with EEOC Regulations
As your company’s HR professional, you need to have a good understanding of the EEOC and how to comply with its regulations. This understanding will help your company avoid bad practices and costly lawsuits.
Below are some ways you can ensure your company’s compliance with the EEOC.
1. Hold Regular Training Sessions
Have training sessions that inform all employees about the EEOC guidelines. In these training sessions you can inform employees of what actions they can take when they see discrimination, actions can include talking with a manager or HR.
These trainings will provide employees with the resources and information they need to show your company is trying to educate and prevent discrimination within the company.
2. Review Your Company’s Hiring Process.
Keep records of all job applicants and track their application process. This will allow you to go back and review how your hiring managers are making decisions and ensuring people are not dismissed from the application process for a discriminatory reason.
Reviewing the hiring process helps ensure there is no adverse impact occurring. Adverse impact occurs when the selection rate of any race, sex, or ethic group is less than four-fiths of the group with the highest selection rate.
For example if part of your hiring process includes a test and you notice that men pass more often and four-fifths of women don’t pass this exam this is causing adverse impact. If this occurs you should rewrite the exam so it does not cause this impact.
To ensure this is not occurring you will want to keep detailed records of exams and other parts of the hiring process to keep an eye out for adverse impact. Only discriminate based on religion, sex, or national orgin if the factors are bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs).
You need to provide a poster about the EEOC so employees understand how they are protected and what actions they can take if they feel they are experiencing any type of discrimination. (An example of the poster can be found here).
4. Do not retaliate
If an employee submits a complaint to the EEOC, your company is prohibited from retaliating. You need to make sure an employee isn’t fired, demoted, or harassed if they file a claim with the EEOC.
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