EEOC strategy plans doing more with less

The EEOC has released its Strategic Plan for Federal Fiscal Years 2018–2022, the first such plan of the Trump administration, under the leadership of Acting EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic.

The plan makes numerous references to doing more with less.

Every five years, the commission updates its strategic plan and gives employers an insight into the EEOC’s thinking, its goals and its enforcement strategy.

Austerity is a theme in the FY2018 –2022 document. Two of the five EEOC seats are currently empty. The EEOC’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 stands just shy of $364 million, down from $377 million in FY2017.

At its core, the strategic plan is a guide to EEOC enforcement priorities. The EEOC has two major enforcement mechanisms at its disposal: conciliation and litigation.

Conciliation—essentially seeking settlements—is clearly the favored approach under the new strategic plan. For the government, it has the advantage of being far less expensive than filing and prosecuting lawsuits.

The EEOC plans to get even more bang for its buck by seeking some sort of equitable relief in approximately 80% of its settlements. “Equitable relief” is defined as relief that goes beyond money paid to employees. Most often, that takes the form of securing employer commitments to update and enforce anti-discrimination policies and provide anti-discrimination training.

The strategic plan calls for targeted equitable relief—defined as nonmonetary relief that targets specific discriminatory practices—to apply to about 15% of settlements.

The new strategic plan also envisions increasing education and outreach efforts that target workers who have historically been discriminated against. Small employers can expect to see more outreach, too.

For employers, the plan shows that the EEOC is attempting to take a more balanced approach to enforcement. Employers and their attorneys may wish to remind EEOC investigators of that approach should they feel they are being unduly pressured.

The commission’s emphasis on equitable relief means that employers who already provide antidiscrimination training to employees will fare better during EEOC investigations.