Major EEOC Changes and How to Prepare for Them
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 05-01-2023 06:58 AM
Synopsis: Learn about the newest changes in leadership and enforcement within the EEOC.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency that investigates employers charged with discrimination, monitors civil rights laws for workers, and helps offer protections to employees when necessary. Established in 1964, The EEOC has been around for many decades of employment trends and workforce changes, and as such, it has to adapt its policies to maintain effectiveness over the years.
In 2023, one of the major changes is that President Biden’s nominee for chair of the organization is set to take the reins from Janet Dhillon. After almost a year of waiting to be approved by the US Senate, Kalpana Kotagal was confirmed into the role at the end of March. As leadership shifts from Republican-led to Democrat-led, The EEOC’s policies might reflect a new set of priorities and focus areas.
Prior to Kotagal’s confirmation, the organization published a strategic plan for 2023-2027, outlining some of the major changes it expects to see. For employers, following the regulations set by The EEOC is critical, so understanding new focal points and priorities is a must for anyone working in HR. While we examine the three major changes that were outlined in the new strategic plan, we’ll also provide tips on how to accommodate these changes with ease.
“Vulnerable Workers” Definition Expansion
Since its inception, protecting vulnerable workers from unfair treatment in the workplace has been a key responsibility of The EEOC. Historically, “vulnerable workers” included people with physical disabilities, immigrant workers, young women, and other workers “who may be unaware of their rights under equal opportunity laws, may be reluctant or unable to exercise their legally protected rights, or have historically been underserved by federal employment discrimination protections.”
As of 2023, The EEOC will expand the definition of “vulnerable workers” to include individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, people with criminal histories, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, temporary workers, low-wage workers, limited literacy workers, and English-proficiency workers. This definition expansion aims to reduce barriers to entry during the hiring process.
One major adjustment that can keep employers aligned with The EEOC’s strategic plan is to update the gender selection dropdown to include non-binary options, offering more inclusivity to people who do not identify as male or female. Another is to update the application process to be more inclusive for neurodiverse individuals or people who speak English as a second language, carving out a space for them to be fairly considered for open roles.
Artificial Intelligence Monitoring
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fundamentally changing how businesses operate on many different levels, and The EEOC is taking this technology into consideration for the first time. As AI and machine learning tools become more widely used in the sourcing and screening processes, The EEOC wants to ensure that employers fully understand and take responsibility for the security of these tools as well as the potential biases that can exist in them.
If a computer is taking in sensitive personnel information such as names, addresses, job history, and disability information, is that data being kept safely and processed securely so as to not jeopardize any one individual? Are the right checks and balances in place to ensure that not everyone can access sensitive information without proper permissions?
To protect your organization from technological challenges, invest in a technical team of data analysts to ensure data privacy and security are at the forefront of the conversation when implementing any digital tools. Forging a strong oversight dynamic with your organization’s IT department can also help alleviate some of these challenges. At the end of the day, humans cannot blindly trust technology, we have to monitor it, train it, and enforce the right level of safety.
Public Health Focus
Adapting to the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as becoming more aware of medical challenges faced by employers in general, The EEOC is putting a spotlight on public health-related discrimination. As “back to the office” discussions continue, remote work becomes more prominent, it’s important that employers don’t miss out on providing necessary accommodations to employees who need them. Experiencing Long-Covid symptoms is one consideration; pregnancy is another.
At the end of 2022, the US Senate included the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the federal spending package for 2023. This act requires employers to provide accommodations for applicants and employees in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. It also protects nursing mothers from discrimination due to nursing or pumping when they return to work.
Providing health-related accommodations is often simple; someone may want the opportunity to work from home regularly or request additional break times to tend to their medical condition or even pump milk for their child. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your employees are safe and cared for while on the clock, and this update is much overdue.
This is a Justified Priority-Shift; Don’t Get Left Behind
As new leadership steps into the spotlight in the EEOC, things are bound to change. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these changes were proposed prior to Kotagal’s confirmation; they are necessary changes that help employers keep up with current workforce dynamics. Staying aligned with the EEOC’s regulations can help avoid costly litigation down the line. In 2021, The EEOC received 61,331 charges, a number that was significantly down from the 84,254 charges in 2017.
Let’s continue doing our part to reduce those charges by tackling problems before they become problems. There’s a large chance that many HR leaders have already raised concerns about data privacy with AI tools, public health accommodations, and the necessity to expand protections for vulnerable workers. Use these regulations as a catalyst to propel your organization into the most accepting, safe, and equitable place for everyone it employs.
Many of the changes we suggested throughout this article can be done quickly and without much lift, though some will require a strategic realignment discussion internally. The change is here, now it’s our time to adapt.