We are spotlighting a report from the US Senate that documents many concerns and issues that were brought to light in 2014. From the Report’s Executive Summary:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) serves an important role in our nation’s workplaces. Under the leadership of five commissioners and a general counsel, EEOC is charged with protecting employees from discrimination at work through enforcement of equal opportunity employment laws. The commission investigates allegations of discrimination and seeks to mediate cases, allowing lawsuits to go forward if settlements are unsuccessful. The general counsel pursues allegations of discrimination in court and has been deputized by the commission to initiate litigation in many instances. The commission also issues guidance to inform the public about how it believes employers should interpret and apply the laws.
Today’s EEOC, however, is pursuing many questionable cases through sometimes overly aggressive means—and, as a result, has suffered significant court losses that are embarrassing to the agency and costly to taxpayers. Courts have found EEOC’s litigation tactics to be so egregious they have ordered EEOC to pay defendants’ attorney’s fees in ten cases since 2011. The courts have criticized EEOC for misuse of its authority, poor expert analysis, and pursuit of novel cases unsupported by law. Several courts have openly criticized EEOC for its failure to satisfy pre-litigation requirements, such as attempting to resolve discrimination disputes out of court; yet, the general counsel is leading an effort to prevent court review of such requirements.
These court losses also have come at a significant cost to victims of workplace discrimination. While EEOC’s monetary recoveries for victims through settlements are up, EEOC’s litigation has recovered almost $200 million less for victims than under the previous administration over the same time frame. In March 2014, EEOC reported almost 71,000 unresolved complaints of discrimination from individuals who filed charges with EEOC.
EEOC also has suffered from a troubling lack of transparency. In the past two and a half years, EEOC has ignored calls from current commissioners and Congress to allow public review of significant and controversial guidance prior to its adoption. Also, the Office of General Counsel has, since 2010, failed to issue its standard annual report, and the agency is being sued for violating the Freedom of Information Act.
This staff report will first explain the background and operation of EEOC. Next, the report will explore costly rebukes of EEOC’s recent litigation practices. The report will also discuss the ways in which EEOC has shown a lack of transparency.
Today’s EEOC has had successful enforcement efforts and court victories for victims of discrimination, but this report finds the agency is increasingly demonstrating poor judgment and using questionable tactics in pursuit of cases that are not fulfilling the EEOC’s objective of protecting employees from workplace discrimination.
Some of the important key findings of the report: