What is The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC)?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an independent body created in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, authorized to enforce federal laws against discrimination at the work place on the basis of race, sex, state of health including pregnancy or disability, color, age, religion, and national origin. It administers anti-discrimination practices on private and government employers with employees or job applicants, covering all conditions including recruitment, termination, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and claims.
The EEOC is also empowered to initiate investigations on complaints filed by persons who believe their rights have been violated. Once allegations are ascertained, the EEOC proceeds to settle the case in behalf of the complainant or may file the case in court if attempts on resolutions are not achieved.
Part of the proactive efforts of the EEOC is to campaign against discrimination before it takes place by conducting outreach and training programs, distributing printed materials, review of employment programs and provision of technical assistance to support federal agencies in handling EEO complaints. Other initiatives on increasing public awareness include the E-RACE program, the Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities (LEAD), and the Youth@Work.
Anti-discrimination regulations began with the legislation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which protects individuals from gender-based wage discrimination. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was enacted, from where most of the employment anti-discrimination laws were put into together under Title VII. It also created the EEOC as the enforcing body of these regulations.
Several amendments on Title VII followed, with the objective of making the EEOC and the laws it enforces more effective, including the passing of the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967, the empowerment of the EEOC by the U.S. Congress to litigate anti-discrimination violators on both private and government sectors in 1972, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. In the years that followed, several complainants had lost their cases due to unclear technical definitions in the regulations under Title VII and the ADA. To rectify matters, the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1991 was passed which expands Title VII’s coverage to include discriminations in Congress and high-level government appointees, and allowed plaintiffs under ADA and Title VII to claim for punitive damages.
The EEOC has faced many challenges in its crusade against employment discrimination. Resentment over the government’s involvement in running private businesses, allegations of bias and prejudice, and resistance against EEOC requests for information from employers in its case investigation are just some of the setbacks they deal with. Litigations have involved private sector employers, labor unions, employment agencies, and state or local governments.
However, the protection of the U.S. general public against discrimination greatly depends on the administration of the EEOC. Thus, it shall remain true to its mission of upholding equality in the workplace and shall continue to enforce the laws entrusted by the U.S. government in its battle against discrimination.