EEOC Chair Offers Modest (At Best) Priorities for 2020

  • Feb 13, 2020
  • EEOC
  • Dennis J. Merley

If you are a fan of government agencies issuing bold headlines but offering little of substance, you must put Janet Dhillon’s (Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) recently issued “The Chair’s Priorities for 2020” at the top of your “must read” list.

Let’s look at the Chair’s five stated priorities:

Priority No. 1 – Continuing to Provide Excellent Customer Service

This is said to include handling charges promptly, embracing technology and data collection methods, and support for their “front-line employees.”  Please forgive a bit of cynicism but an agency known for taking a year or more even to initiate their investigations probably should not be trumpeting their intent to continue this brand of excellent (?) service.

Priority No. 1 really just says “Let’s keep doing what we have been doing.”  Bold thought indeed.

Priority No. 2Continuing to Provide Robust Compliance Assistance

There’s that word “continuing” again.  Apparently we are to believe that the EEOC has been working hard as the employer’s partner – our good buddy – who helps us stay on the correct side of the law.  Raise your hand if you have benefitted from EEOC’s robust help.  Anyone?

Interestingly, this priority includes updating their written guidance documents and rescinding those that are “out-of-date, raise the potential for confusion among our stakeholders, or exceed[s] the Commission’s statutory authority.”

So, perhaps Priority No. 2 can be interpreted as “We’re going to keep doing what we have been doing but we are going to try not to be so wrong about it.”

Priority No. 3 – Enhancing Our Efforts to Reach Vulnerable Workers

This is actually a new commitment, and kudos to Chairperson Dhillon for focusing on the need to “re-examine our efforts to reach vulnerable workers in our society and make adjustments as necessary.” One problem, though, is that the Chair did not identify who these vulnerable workers are.  That leads us to suspect that the 2021 priorities list will include: “Continuing our efforts to identify and reach vulnerable workers.”

Therefore, Priority No. 3 can be summarized as “We will make an effort to reach out to vulnerable workers just as soon as we figure out who they are.”

Priority No. 4 – Strategically Allocating Commission Resources

The EEOC plans to place greater efforts on mediation and conciliation, spend less time suing people, and refrain from seeking to “enforce statutes outside of our jurisdiction or seek remedies that are not authorized under the laws that the EEOC is authorized to enforce.”  This last item presumably means that the EEOC will back away from their efforts to apply Title VII to claims of sexual orientation discrimination.

Priority No. 4 interpretation – We’re going to work hard just on settling the cases we have without trying to make more work for ourselves.

Priority No. 5 – Continuing EEOC’s Efforts to be a Model Workplace

The EEOC wants to be a model of an effective, inclusive workforce.  That’s great but this shouldn’t this just be a minimal expectation for the agency that is devoted to telling all of us that we should be effective, inclusive employers?

Priority No. 5 is just code for “Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if we got sued for discrimination?”

Bottom Line

Final Tally:

3 priorities that focus just on continuing to do what they do.

1 priority centered on helping a particular group of people but not identifying who those people are.

1 priority of just keeping their own house in order.

Perhaps EEOC is of the opinion that it is best to meet limited expectations than to fall short of loftier goals. If so, this should be a banner year for them.