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President Trump’s Directive to the EEOC is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Forget location, location, location, President Trump tells the Acting Chair of the EEOC, it is all about job growth. On June 28, 2017, President Trump nominated Janet Dhillon to chair of the EEOC.  If Ms. Dhillon is confirmed, Ms. Lipnic will become a Commissioner.

In November 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the federal watchdog for anti-discrimination employment statutes, issued its 2017 strategic plan.  Its six areas of priority were: (1) eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring; (2) protecting vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers, and underserved communities from discrimination; (3) addressing selected emerging and developing issues; (4) ensuring equal pay protections for all workers; (5) preserving access to the legal system; and (6) preventing systematic harassment.

In January 2017, President Trump appointed Victoria Lipnic as the Acting Chair of the EEOC.  In February 2017, she spoke regarding President Trump’s direction for the EEOC.  Lipnic said the President has made it clear he is interested in job growth and the EEOC will adopt this focus.  Therefore, regulations may be refocused in a way to foster job growth.  What this means is unclear.  How job growth is a function of or fostered by the EEOC is an interesting question and time will tell if this is a realistic goal for the EEOC.

While the EEOC’s November 2016 strategic plan was a good indicator of the EEOC’s general direction, Lipnic explained the EEOC will now focus on employer responsibilities in joint employment, the use of staffing agencies, and the gig economy.  Lipnic also stated she considers equal pay cases a priority.

In the discrimination case arena, Lipnic plans to shift the EEOC’s focus from systematic discrimination cases, i.e., pattern or practice cases, to individual employee cases.  She said “I am not of the view that we should be all systematic, all the time.”

It is hard to determine exactly where the EEOC is going based on Commissioner Lipnic’s comments but a few points seem likely.  First, employers should be auditing their pay practices to determine if there are any disparities based on gender, race, or any other protected class that does not have a legitimate non-discriminatory business justification.  The new EEOC will focus on these kinds of violations.  Second, employers should be forewarned, and in some cases relieved, that the EEOC may be more likely to take a single plaintiff employment case than it has in the past.  This is a dramatic reversal of direction for the EEOC.  Lastly, the EEOC will look to enforce policies and regulations which promote job growth but what this means is still unclear.

While President Trump is expected to demand employer friendly policies, only time will tell how this direction impacts employers and in what ways.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.