EEOC Announces Strategic Plan: More Lawsuits

Angela Preston

I hope you aren’t tired of reading about class action lawsuits brought by the EEOC. The Commission is linking discrimination to background checks –specifically credit history and criminal records. So I’m not so surprised to see that the agency has more of the same planned for the next few years.  When the Commission announced their strategic plan for fiscal years 2012-2016 a couple of weeks ago, at least one message was clear–there is no intention to slow down the EEO express being driven by Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.

While strategic plans from federal agencies can be painful to read, there are a couple of noteworthy points here. The plan was light on specifics, but the EEOC announced “the Plan serves as a framework for the Commission in achieving its mission by focusing on three strategic objectives: strategic law enforcement, education and outreach, and efficiently serving the public.” The main focus is on the first objective—enforcement.  “In keeping with the agency’s statutory mandate, the majority of the EEOC’s financial and human resources will be devoted to Strategic Objective I.”

Let me break it down. Translation= more litigation. That makes sense, considering the “No more Mr. Nice Guy” trend that we have been watching for past year. Targets have been large companies like Pepsi, Kaplan Higher Education and Panda Express.  The Commission will continue to focus on systematic discrimination—patterns, practices, policies, and class cases where the alleged discrimination has a bigger impact. Large employers take note.

One more interesting point:  the plan was approved 4-1, which means at least one commissioner wasn’t buying what the Commission was selling. On a Commission of five individuals with a shared goal of ending employment discrimination and promote equal opportunity, it’s pretty interesting that they did not have a unanimous vote.

Constance Barker, the sole Commissioner who voted against the plan, said that she hoped that the Commission would stop “evaluating professional lawyers on the basis of the number of lawsuits that they file.” Wow. She voted against the plan, saying that the EEOC is losing focus of its “core mission,” which is to “prevent discrimination from ever occurring,” not to stop nor to provide remedies once discrimination has occurred. “So to the extent that this plan does not provide that as its first and foremost strategic priority, the plan simply and profoundly misses the mark.”  Watch all of the action here.

Consider this–maybe it’s time to slow down the excessive litigation and zealous pursuit of multimillion dollar settlements that are not solving the problem, and quit just playing lip service to prevention. Agree or disagree–it’s nice to finally hear a different point of view being intelligently articulated. Thank you, Commissioner Barker.

Angela Preston
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Angela Preston

Vice President of Compliance & General Counsel at EmployeeScreenIQ
Angela Preston has more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and over 10 years in the background screening area. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), is a member of the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC), and is actively involved in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and ASIS International. Angela is also a member of the Ohio State and Columbus Bar Associations. Angela has direct oversight and management of compliance programs, and will provide guidance in complex legal matters including state and federal legislation, EEO law, client education, adjudication, pre/adverse action process, NAPBS Accreditation and client and vendor contract management.
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  • Stephen Cicak

    Looks like its all about the settlement dollars and not people.

  • Name Steve Gonzalez

    This is a huge issue for the industry. Good to hear NAPBS is trying to tackle it head-on with an upcoming session in DC, inviting EEOC folks to join & discuss. It’s odd that screening, in itself, is as unbiased as possible – no regard to race, religion, sex, etc – yet employers are being hit with these lawsuits. Consistency is now the key – applying the same standards across the company and being able to defend your scope and decision model.

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