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EEOC, DOJ team up on public-sector bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division have signed a new memorandum of understanding firming up the agencies’ enforcement cooperation on discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints involving local, state and federal government employees.

The two agencies share enforcement authority against public-sector employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Typically, the EEOC investigates and mediates discrimination charges against public employers. When it finds cause to believe an unlawful employment practice has occurred, it works with the employer to negotiate a resolution. If conciliation efforts fail, the DOJ takes over. It has exclusive authority within the federal government to file a lawsuit against public employers under Title VII.

The new memorandum reaffirms a commitment by the EEOC and DOJ to share information with one another. An EEOC statement cited recent enforcement efforts that led to settlements in a sexual harassment case in Maryland, a religious accommodation case in Illinois and a race-based wage-discrimination case that resulted in a government employee in Nevada receiving a $179,000 settlement.

Advice: If you work for a government agency and one of your employees sues for discrimination, harassment or retaliation, expect the full “We’re from Washington, and we’re here to help you” treatment. The cooperative agreement between the EEOC and DOJ places heavy emphasis on the EEOC’s conciliation process, which means agencies can expect a great deal of pressure to settle Title VII cases.

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