Did you know that at the beginning of 2016, the EEOC rolled out Phase I of its Digital Charge System, which provides an online portal system for employers to access and respond to a Charge of Discrimination? If you didn’t know, you are not alone. Many employers have been surprised to receive an email from the EEOC stating that a Charge has been filed and providing a password to access the EEOC’s secure online portal. The email provides a deadline for the employer to log in to the portal. Once logged in, the employer may view and download the Charge, respond to mediation requests and upload position statements it creates for the EEOC to review. (The EEOC asserts that information uploaded to the portal are encrypted and protected by proper security controls.) The EEOC’s plan is to no longer send hard copies of these documents to employers.
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines systemic discrimination as “pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic area.” In 2005, the EEOC examined the state of its systemic discrimination program and issued numerous recommendations for changes in strategy, all of which resulted in the adoption of the Systemic Task Force (STF).   The STF has been a game changer for EEOC enforcement, setting priorities that have shaped the EEOC’s agenda and strategic vision over the last decade.  Among the STF’s primary recommendations was to make combating systemic discrimination a top priority. To do so, the STF advocated for the use of a national law firm model in litigating systemic cases by staffing systemic suits based on the needs of the suit, independent of the office where the case was developed.
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Recent laws in North Carolina and Mississippi and the subsequent backlash are all over the news.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ogberfell v. Hodges making gay marriage legal across the country is not even a year old.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals very recently rule in favor of the right of transgender high school students to use bathrooms for the gender with which they associate.  LGBTQ rights are at the forefront like never before.  Employment discrimination is no exception.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has recently filed two separate suits in Pennsylvania and Maryland district courts challenging the long-held belief that Title VII does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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The EEOC recently announced that it will double its fine for employers who violate the notice posting requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, from $100 per violation to $210.   The new rule will go into effect on April 18, 2014.
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Last March, I wrote about a lawsuit the EEOC filed against a department store that allegedly refused to hire a woman because she was pregnant.  In the post Thoughtless Comments Make For Easy Pickings,” I noted some interesting accusations contained in the case — including that the pregnant woman claimed she was told that the hiring manager “had not had much luck hiring pregnant women” and that she should re-apply “after giving birth.”
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The EEOC just sued J.C. Penney claiming that it refused to hire a woman at a Brunswick, Georgia store because she was pregnant.  While that is not big news (except to perhaps the woman and the management at that J.C. Penney location), the lawsuit offers some good lessons.

Why?  Well, the case involves two interesting set of accusations. 
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We previously posted about the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)’s new fact sheet, entitled “Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking,” and considered the fact sheet’s examples as to how an employer might violate Title VII’s prohibitions in discriminating against applicants or employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

In this post we’re going to consider the ADA examples provided on the fact sheet, and our recommendations for how you can avoid discriminating against the victims of domestic violence in your workplace.
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As my colleague considered several months ago, organizations like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) have been fighting for decades to counter the prejudices many have against obese individuals.  As part of its efforts, NAAFA is working to establish federal and state laws making obesity a protected class.  To date, however, these efforts have only resulted in one state (Michigan) and a handful of cities passing laws making weight-based discrimination illegal.

While efforts to make obesity a protected class have not been especially successful, there has, however, been more movement towards the greater recognition of obesity as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   My colleague previously noted that a federal district court in Louisiana had found that an employee who weighed 527 pounds at the time of her termination was “an individual with a disability” as defined under the ADA.
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I spent a day earlier this week representing a client in an EEOC on-site investigation.  The investigator interviewed numerous company officials.  At the start of each interview, the investigator stated that the EEOC is a “neutral third-party.”

While the EEOC is supposed to be neutral, many actions and positions taken by the EEOC leave companies (and their counsel) shaking their heads over this assertion of neutrality.  While the particular investigator I dealt with this week was quite professional, personable and reasonable, most other experiences with the EEOC make it hard for her and her peers to be viewed as neutral by any employer.

For instance, just this week the EEOC tweeted the following:
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