The Class Action Weekly Wire – Episode 29: EEOC Strategic Plan Update

Duane Morris Takeaway: This week’s episode of the Class Action Weekly Wire features Duane Morris partners Jerry Maatman, Jennifer Riley, and Alex Karasik with their analysis and discussion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026.

Episode Transcript

Jerry Maatman: Welcome, loyal blog readers to our weekly installment of the Friday podcast, the Class Action Weekly Wire. I’m joined today by my partners, Alex Karasik and Jennifer Riley. Welcome.

Jennifer Riley: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alex Karasik: Thanks, Jerry – Thrilled to be on the podcast.

Jerry: Today’s topic is the EEOC Strategic Plan for 2022 through 2026. It was just published this past month. Alex – what’s this about and what does it mean for employers?

Alex: Great question, Jerry. The Strategic Plan furthers the EEOC’s mission of preventing and remedying unlawful employment discrimination in advancing the Commission’s goal of providing equal opportunities and employment for all people. The Strategic Plan focuses on 1) enforcement, 2) education and outreach, and 3) organizational excellence. The Strategic Plan also provides performance measures for each strategic goal. So for corporate counsel who are involved in employment-related compliance as well as EEOC litigation, the new Strategic Plan is really required reading. You can find a copy of the Strategic Plan linked to the Duane Morris Class Action Blog, where we discuss the impact of the Plan and break down what it means for employers.

Jerry: Jen, enforcement is a big ticket item – it reminds me of the old EF Hutton commercial, ‘when EF Hutton speaks, people listen.’ And as Alex said, certainly when the EEOC talks about how it’s going to spend taxpayer dollars in enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, employers should listen and take notice. What are the takeaways in your mind when it comes to enforcement-related issues?

Jen: Well in the Strategic Plan, Jerry, the EEOC describes its primary mission as to prevent unlawful employment discrimination through its administrative mechanisms and through the litigation in terms of its enforcement mechanisms as well as through as adjudicatory and oversight processes. So the EEOC states that its main strategic focus for employing these mechanisms is through this fair and efficient enforcement based on the circumstances of each charge or each complaint, while maintaining a balance of meaningful relief for victims of discrimination.

Jerry: Well, I know that you can divide up the EEOC’s docket into systemic cases and non-systemic cases – systemic cases being much like class actions, even though the EEOC doesn’t have to comply with Rule 23 to litigate those. The EEOC also talks about outreach and education. Alex, is that something that employers should heed and take notice of?

Alex: Absolutely, Jerry – and one of the goals of the EEOC is trying to really prevent discrimination in these types of issues before they even ever surface to litigation. And the EEOC Strategic Plan does exactly that. It includes programs and events that come at cost-effective tools for enforcement. So these programs are primarily designed to help individuals from protected categories who may have historically been subjected to employment discrimination. Part of the EEOC’s education and outreach involves expanding technology through social media. That’s where a lot of workers are these days and a lot of people in society – and ensuring that the EEOC website and digital tools are more user-friendly and accessible and leveraging technology to capture a wider audience. These efforts to improve education and outreach are aimed at promoting public awareness of employment, discrimination laws while maintaining information and guidance for employers, federal agencies, unions, and staffing agencies. So really, the EEOC is dedicated to educating a large contingency of groups and organizations on what it can do to prevent discrimination.

Jerry: I also thought the aspect of the Plan that talked about organizational excellence was interesting. I, for one, have participated in internal EEOC training sessions where government attorneys came to be trained on cutting edge theories and techniques and employment discrimination laws. I once was an outside lecturer welcomed in by the EEOC to give that training. Jen, what do you read in terms of the EEOC’s investment taxpayer dollars into organizational excellence and what it means at the receiving end for employers in terms of lawsuits and techniques used by the government and litigating those lawsuits?

Jen: Well Jerry, the Strategic Plan makes clear that organizational excellence is the cornerstone of achieving the eeoc strategic goals. So the Plan states that the EEOC aims to improve on its culture of accountability, inclusivity, and accessibility. In addition to that, the Plan states that the EEOC will continue to advance civil rights in the workplace by ensuring resources are allocated properly to strengthen its intake, outreach, education, enforcement, and service goals. In terms of that organizational excellence strategic goal, it has two prongs including improving the training of the EEOC employees and enhancing the EEOC’s infrastructure. For employees, the Plan states that the EEOC will continue to foster enhanced diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility in the workplace, maintain employee retention, implement leadership and succession plans. And relative to that to the agency’s infrastructure, the Plan embraces this increased use of technology through analytics as well as through the management of fiscal resources to promote the agency’s mission.

Jerry: Those are a very ambitious set of accomplishments that the government is staking out for itself. Alex, at the end of the day, what do you think are the most important takeaways for corporate counsel in terms of this newly published document from the EEOC?

Alex: Corporate counsel should pay attention to what they can do to best prevent discrimination and use this Strategic Plan to identify areas where the EEOC will essentially be focusing on in the coming years. The Strategic Plan is like a roadmap for businesses that they should absolutely pay attention to. Some of the focus areas that we learned about were systemic discrimination, conciliation, litigation, increasing the Commission’s capacity for litigating systemic violations of the discrimination laws., and how the EEOC is really ramping up its efforts to investigate charges. The EEOC’s focus on technology is a really key area for employers, and they’re taking advantage of the tools, such as the Internet, artificial intelligence, websites, social medias, and these types of things to look at where might employees be, and where my potential victims discrimination be, and how we can reach them to both educate them on the discrimination laws and what the key priorities are for the businesses and the Commission alike in terms of handling these issues. So these continue to be pillars for the agency – the areas that we just discussed today – and employers should absolutely buckle up for what will be a very busy four years of EEOC-initiated investigations and litigation.

Jerry: Thank you, Alex, and thank you, Jen, for your analysis and synopsis of this most important document. And thank you, loyal blog readers for tuning into our weekly podcast. Have a great day.

Alex: Thank you, Jerry.

Jen: Thanks, everybody.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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