The EEOC pursues discrimination and harassment cases that would otherwise slip through the legal cracks, according to Peggy R. Mastroianni, EEOC Legal Counsel.
Speaking March 18 at the Society for Human Resource’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., she said, “There are certain areas where the government can really make a difference.” Unlike private attorneys, who weigh profit potential before taking a case, “We can focus on important cases that may not be big ticket, but seek to right a wrong.”
She said the EEOC will increase enforcement efforts on seven issues in coming months:
1. ADA. Mastroianni emphasized that the EEOC is focusing on cases involving the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, which revised the list of conditions that may signal that a worker is disabled.
2. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC received only 333 GINA-related charges last year, but it’s one of the only charge categories that is growing.
3.. Mastroianni noted that is a form of sex discrimination, but pregnant employees may also be covered under parts of the ADAAA.
4. Coverage of LBGT individuals under Title VII. Although federal law does not currently prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals because of their sexual orientation, the EEOC has brought cases under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions.
5. Enforcing equal pay laws, especially in cases of alleged gender discrimination. Mastroianni noted that the EEOC received about 5,000 charges of gender-based wage discrimination last year.
6. Preserving access to the legal system. In particular, the EEOC is on the alert for severance and arbitration agreements that require employees to waive their rights to complain to the EEOC.
7. Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement. The EEOC received 21,371 harassment charges in 2013. The commission is most interested in pursuing cases of systemic racial and sexual harassment. “Those one-on-one harassment cases? We’re not focusing on them,” Mastroianni said.