EEOC Takes a Look at the Big Picture

June 18, 2009 Published Work
Connecticut Law Tribune, April 27, 2009, Vol. 35, No. 17

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has signaled that it is renewing its emphasis on combating systemic discrimination.
In 2006, the EEOC adopted recommendations from an internal task force report that focused on strengthening the EEOC's nationwide approach to investigating and litigating systemic cases. The task force defined systemic cases as "pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic location." These investigations and any attendant litigation would cover sytemic discrmination in connection with hiring, termination, setting of compensation, and any other terms or conditions of employment.
The EEOC has taken steps to embolden its efforts in attacking systemic discrimination in employment, and thus to continue transitioning agency focus from individual discrimination cases to agency-driven charges attacking such suspected systemic discrimination practices. In early 2008, two regional attorneys, one in New York and one in Chicago, were engaged to develop and coordinate large systemic cases on a nationwide basis. Supervisors and investigators have been trained to identify and potentially litigate cases where practices have been viewed as having company-wide discrminatory effects. All 15 EEOC district offices have prepared strategic plans for systemic initiatives. Finally, the EEOC had, as of early 2008, already filed aproximately 14 actions naming in each 20 or more alleged victims of systemic discrimination.