Early in his presidency, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985, entitled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” To comply with this Executive Order, the EEOC recently released its “Equity Action Plan,” which contains several items that may impact employers through improvements to the charge-filing process.
The EEOC beings its plan by stating that it “focuses on systematic racial discrimination, advancing equity in the agency’s activities, and improving outreach to underserved communities.” The Equity Plan has four pillars by which it plans to achieve these goals.
First, the EEOC plans to improve access for workers to file charges with the EEOC by shortening the wait time for intake appointments; increase staff at its national call center, including staff that can accommodate employers who do not speak English; making its intake forms and public portal available in other languages; and increasing outreach events in more rural areas. Through these efforts, we may well see an increase in charges filed with the EEOC – particularly in a rural state like South Dakota. However, these changes may also cause charges to be investigated and processed much more quickly.
Second, the EEOC plans to engage with a broad range of employers, researchers, workers, and civil rights organizations to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (“DEIA”) efforts. The EEOC has indicated that it plans to focus on providing resources and identifying strategies to assist employers to recruit, hire, and promote employees with minority backgrounds and to increase such individual’s ranks in leadership positions.
Third, the EEOC plans to further develop its data collection and analysis to support enforcement of civil rights laws and to encourage individuals to exercise their civil rights. To achieve this goal, the EEOC plans to update demographic categories on relevant EEOC forms (including gender self-identification categories to charge-related forms and further breakdowns on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status); explore ways to make EEO data more accessible; perform more targeted and deeper analysis of existing internal and charge data; and determine whether to expand its existing EEO data collection, including to better identify intersectional discrimination. As the EEOC develops and collects an ever increasing amount of data, the hope is that the EEOC will evaluate and continue to improve the charge-handling process.
Fourth, the EEOC plans to continue to improve access to the EEOC’s resources for non-English speaking workers and for those who have limited reading proficiency or lack access to digital resources. The EEOC has noted that the majority of its website and educational materials are only accessible to those with a high degree of English literacy and capability to access online resources. The EEOC therefore plans to identify its most frequently visited EEOC webpages and to translate them into languages other than English and to provide auditory resources for those with limited reading proficiency.