- While U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuits generally peak at the end of the agency's fiscal year, "FY 2020 ended with a whimper, with only 33 lawsuits filed during September," law firm Seyfarth Shaw said in its annual analysis published Sept. 30. The agency filed 52 last September and 84 the year before.
- The agency's total for the year is down "significantly" as well, Sefarth said: It filed 94 merit lawsuits and seven subpoena enforcement actions. FY2019 saw 141 lawsuits and eight subpoena enforcement actions; in FY2018, EEOC filed 197 lawsuits 20 subpoena enforcement actions. The law firm said changes to EEOC programs, the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in agency leadership likely drove the drop.
- "[I]t remains to be seen how new priorities and strategies will be applied to a radically different employment landscape,” the law firm observed.
In a December 2019 report, Seyfarth noted that the Commission was pursuing aggressive litigation and closing out settlements at high rates in 2019, a continuation of the enforcement stance it took under the Obama administration.
However, with a Republican majority recently formulated, compliance assistance — often a focus for federal agencies under Republican administrations — rather than enforcement will probably shape future actions, stakeholders predicted. The EEOC said early this year that it intended to focus on excellent customer service and "robust" compliance assistance in 2020.
And as the law firm noted, EEOC released several guidance documents this year aiming to answer employers' questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, it made clear that employers generally may take workers' temperatures and ask about symptoms without violating nondiscrimination laws but may not require antibody tests.