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Enforcing Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

This week, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) hosted a webcast, which joined employees from the three agencies to discuss their mutual commitment to collaborate in the enforcement of federal employment discrimination laws. Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris moderated a panel with Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline A. Berrien, and OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu to discuss each agency’s work in enforcing civil rights laws and joint enforcement efforts planned for the three agencies. Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, gave introductory remarks that discussed the importance of this collaboration. This is the first time in history that the national and field employees of these three civil rights agencies have gathered to discuss each agency’s work and opportunities for collaboration moving forward. During the presentation, each agency described the laws it enforces and spelled out its priorities for the coming years. Assistant Attorney General Perez focused on the Civil Rights Division’s reinvigorated pattern or practice enforcement program, which promotes systemic change in state and local government workforces. He discussed, for example, the Division’s significant victory in U.S. v. City of New York, a case in which the Department has successfully challenged the City’s use of two written examinations for entry-level firefighter positions. The judge in the case granted summary judgment against the City, finding that its practices had unlawful disparate impact against African-American and Hispanic applicants and also constituted intentional discrimination against them. EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien said that she is “very proud” of the accomplishments of the EEOC and its employees throughout its 45-year history, but is also keenly aware that the public’s demand for the EEOC’s services -- as reflected in part by the historic number of discrimination charges filed in the past fiscal year -- is more pressing than ever. She said that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Civil Rights Division at the Department are very important partners in the effort to end employment discrimination in the United States and, at a moment of unprecedented demands upon agency resources and a constrained fiscal environment, it is especially important for all three agencies to operate as efficiently as possible, leverage their resources and avoid duplicating efforts. OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu urged employees of all three agencies to replicate the collaboration that is happening among the leadership level at national and field offices across the country. “We need you to start talking to each other, to start sharing information and to put our egos and turf issues aside to really prioritize what’s in the best interest of workers,” said Director Shiu. She pointed to the example of a case that OFCCP’s Southwest and Rocky Mountain Region recently referred to the Department because they determined it was better suited to handle it. “This is the first time since the Reagan administration that OFCCP has referred a case to us,” noted Perez. EEOC, DOJ and OFCCP are already working together on a host of projects, including addressing wage discrimination through the National Equal Pay Task Force, piloting programs among their field offices, reinvigorating Memoranda of Understanding which outline protocols for sharing information, communicating about best practices and conducting joint trainings among compliance officers and investigators. The agency leaders celebrated the unprecedented levels of collaboration that have already borne fruit and committed to enhancement of that collaboration going forward. As all three recognized, the collaboration will result in more efficient use of our resources, better coordination of our priorities, and an increased ability to hold employers accountable for employment discrimination.
Updated April 7, 2017