The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year 2005 last month, citing achievements of the past year and identifying its strategic objectives for the years 2006 – 2009. The National Contact Center began accepting calls in April, providing easy access to the public. It receives 24,000 calls a month. With a goal of prevention, as well as enforcement, the Commission conducted 479 no-cost outreach events directed toward small businesses in 2005. In addition, EEOC local offices conducted 489 outreach events directed toward the private sector to promote their mediation program, which resolves disputes quickly and in a cost-effective manner.
Noting that the EEOC marked its 40th anniversary in 2005, the Chairman of the Commission, Cari M. Dominguez writes that the EEOC is making a fundamental shift toward strategic objectives. “It is clear that the Commission can no longer serve as the “job police”. The agency’s strategic objectives for 2006-2009 aim for a balanced approach of proactive prevention and strategic enforcement. While building partnerships to prevent discrimination, the Commission will take on “more high impact cases that can lead to positive workplace changes for a broad swath of the workforce.”
Proactive prevention, with emphasis on small business outreach, is one of the Commission’s three strategic objectives. The report says, “The Commission is working cooperatively and collaboratively with the small business community to proactively prevent employment discrimination and promote voluntary compliance.” The EEOC will “open lines of communication and provide the necessary training and tools to ensure that small employers comply with the laws.” Outreach events in 2005 included oral presentations, training and stakeholder input meetings attended by 21,919 small business representatives. The most popular Revolving Fund events, attended by 2753 small business representatives, included Mediation, EEOC overview, sexual harassment, charge processing, Title VII, and the ADA.
The Small Business Administration’s National Ombudsman awarded the EEOC an A rating in FY 2005, the highest rating awarded.
The first Freedom to Compete Awards were awarded in 2005 to companies in the private sector to recognize and reward good practices in the workplace. Acknowledging that more than half of the EEOC’s complaint activity comes from small and mid-sized employers, the awards are based on initiatives and results, and seek to recognize employers that may not have extensive infrastructure.
EEOC’s private sector mediation program is a tool for resolving charges quickly to the benefit of both employees and employers. The program, the largest in the country, has successfully resolved more than 51,000 charges since it was launched in the 1990’s. The program brings charges to timely conclusion and helps to reduce inventory.
A similar program used in the federal sector, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), is intended to settle conflicts quickly and amicably.
The high impact lawsuits the agency will pursue will take into account workplace trends, workforce dynamics and demographic shifts. In 2005 the report says, “The EEOC's suits against Ford and Dial share a common theme--the exclusion of qualified applicants by operation of an employment test (a physical test in the Dial case and a written test in the Ford case) that did not truly measure job ability. Both cases will directly benefit hundreds of individuals by giving them jobs, and will indirectly benefit untold numbers of future applicants who may have been excluded from employment by tests that were not truly job-related.”