The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its updated Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) on October 17, 2016 for Fiscal Years 2017-2021. Despite the 2012-2016 plan encountering criticism from Republican legislators on Capitol Hill, the new SEP (which can be viewed here) continues the EEOC’s continued focus on strategic litigation and enforcement priorities. The cases involved are marked by their strategic impact on the development of laws promoting compliance across a community, organization, or industry.
That strategic impact of a case, regardless of individuals affected, can be identified by a particular issue’s significance and the potential outcome. The EEOC’s objective with the new SEP is to find balance between individual cases and systemic cases when pursuing the agency’s enforcement priorities. Cases deemed meritorious that raise substantive priorities will be given precedence in case selection, as will cases believed to have strategic impact that fall outside substantive areas.
As with the first SEP, the 2017 plan prioritizes as its mission to include: protecting vulnerable and underserved workers; eliminating hiring and recruiting barriers; ensuring all workers equal pay protections; preserving legal system access; and preventing systemic harassment.
Within those six key priorities are additional focus areas including pregnancy-related limitations under the ADA and LGBT protections. The updated SEP also targets new emerging issues as priority: complex employment relationships (temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractors, etc.) and backlash discrimination (workers who are or perceived to be Muslim, Sikh, Arab, South Asian, or Middle Eastern). Lack of diversity driven by screening tools is also an area of focus.
To summarize, 2017’s SEP reveals employers, especially those who rely heavily on contract or temp workers, can expect the EEOC to firmly maintain their focus of enforcing priorities.