President Trump’s budget adversely affects the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other agencies essential to workers’ rights. It asks for the elimination of 249 full-time positions at the EEOC as compared to 2016.
The EEOC enforces numerous federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of national origin, race, color, sex, or religion. When an employee brings a charge of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation to the EEOC, the EEOC can investigate it and determine whether there’s reasonable cause to believe there’s been discrimination. Both the employee and the organization are supposed to provide information, which is evaluated by the investigator to make a recommendation about whether there is a reasonable basis for believing there’s been unlawful discrimination.
When the EEOC can’t conclude there’s been discrimination, the employee is told he or she can sue in federal court within 90 days. However, if the EEOC finds there’s reason to believe there’s been discrimination, it may invite the parties to conciliation, and if that fails, the EEOC files a federal lawsuit.
During the Bush administration, the EEOC’s budget stayed flat. During that period, the EEOC tried to emphasize high-impact litigation that would address policies or patterns with a substantial impact on a whole range of job applicants or employees within various industries or regions. The purpose of the high-impact litigation was to deter similar behavior by others within that class, field, or industry. As a result, however, the EEOC wasn’t able to pursue individual justice in a number of legitimate cases.
Budget cuts have a huge impact on the EEOC, which must then find creative ways to enforce anti-discrimination laws that are crucial to so many workers. Often, this requires a shift in tactics. In the meantime, however, the workers whose cases are not chosen for federal lawsuits by the EEOC may lose millions of dollars in lost front pay and back pay.
Additionally, there may be less justice for workers who already face significant obstacles on the job in connection with their identities, including in the areas of disability, genetic information, race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, and family medical history. Discrimination and harassment happen in American workplaces on a regular basis—one in three women have reported being sexually harassed on the job, for example. About a quarter of black Americans have reported workplace discrimination, as have 15% of Hispanic Americans. Meanwhile, 50% of transgender Americans report workplace discrimination.
The EEOC budget cuts suggest that the burden is being shifted to states to take care of workers, but there’s no indication this will actually happen. Without a proper budget, the EEOC cannot hire the necessary workers to keep enforcing anti-discrimination laws. This means that more workers will have to hire private attorneys to bring federal lawsuits, and the law in various jurisdictions will develop independently. The nation as a whole will not progress forward at the same speed with regard to the important issue of discrimination, and workers will need to migrate to states where their rights are taken seriously.
It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced Texas employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.
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