EEOC continues 'aggressive litigation' despite Trump administration policies
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has continued its "business as usual" aggressive litigation despite two years under the Trump administration, according to a report from law firm Seyfarth Shaw. A look at the commission's 2018 litigation reveals several trends, including a focus on the #MeToo movement and LGBT worker protections, the report says.
The agency has filed dozens of cases alleging sexual harassment, according to Seyfarth Shaw. Also representing a significant focus in this area was the agency announcing its preliminary FY 2018 sexual harassment data in early October 2018, the firm noted; that data usually comes later in the year. "Given the intense focus on this issue, we strongly suspect that this trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future," the firm said.
Likewise, EEOC has maintained its position that that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The administration disagrees, but EEOC continues to enforce its position.
While 2018 may have been "business as usual," change could still be on the horizon as the impact of new decision makers who will fill vacancies at the EEOC could be dramatic, the firm pointed out.
Notably, EEOC's continued focus on sexual harassment wasn't without a corresponding uptick in employee complaints. The 50% increase in such cases that the EEOC reported for 2018 may signal two things, Barry Hartstein, co-chair of Littler Mendelson's EEO and diversity practice group, previously told HR Dive: 1) employees have been emboldened by the current climate to report harassment and are looking to the agency; and 2) after making a public commitment to crackdown on sexual harassment last summer, the agency continues to prioritize such litigation.
"Based on its recent actions, aside from the EEOC's June 2016 Task Force Report on the Study of Harassment, which preceded the flurry of events involving Harvey Weinstein and others, the EEOC has continued to stay ahead of the curve in addressing harassment in the workplace," Hartstein said.
In light of these trends, employers may want to examine internal processes for handling harassment and discrimination complaints, as well as compensation practices, handbook policies and reporting mechanisms. They also may want to examine where bias and discrimination training for both employees and managers could be supplemented or implemented.