United States: Key Takeaways For Employers From The EEOC's New Strategic Plan

Last Updated: April 13 2018
Article by Simone Francis

On February 12, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022, in accordance with the congressional mandate requiring all executive departments, independent agencies, and government corporations to issue a strategic plan every four years. Together with the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2017- 2021, the Strategic Plan provides insight into the agency's intended focus and objectives for the next four years. Additionally, it offers a road map that can be utilized by HR professionals and in-house legal departments to chart a course for their organizations.

The Strategic Plan identifies the EEOC's two primary objectives. First, it underscores the EEOC's intention to focus resources on the priorities identified in the Strategic Enforcement Plan in an effort to ensure that the agency's activities have a significant impact on the development of the law and on legal compliance across industries or large business entities. Second, the Strategic Plan outlines the communication and outreach strategies that the EEOC intends to utilize to disseminate information targeted to increasing the public's understanding of the law and encouraging compliance with the law.

Continued Attention to Systemic and Significant Claims

In A Review of the Systemic Program of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released on July 7, 2016, the EEOC outlined its successes in addressing systemic discrimination, including by waging challenges to attendance policies that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and focusing on employers' use of background checks, testing policies, and other practices that disproportionately impacted access to employment opportunities for women and minorities. The Strategic Plan confirms that the EEOC will continue to focus on cases raising systemic and other significant issues.

Multi-state and other large employers and large staffing companies should expect continued scrutiny of recruitment and hiring practices that may disparately impact members of racial or ethnic minority groups, older workers, and persons with disabilities. Such entities should consider adopting and maintaining processes to proactively assess whether workplace complaints signal entity-wide practices or challenges that necessitate modification of existing policies or warrant additional outreach to educate managers, supervisors, or other sectors of the workforce about compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

Targeted Equitable Relief

The Strategic Plan also underscores the EEOC's commitment to securing equitable relief in cases resolved by the agency. According to data published by the EEOC, the percentage of resolutions that include an equitable relief component has increased from 64 percent in FY 2013 to 81.2 percent in FY 2015. Accordingly, employers should continue to expect the EEOC to require the implementation of customized, interactive training, the adoption and communication of policies to deter future violations, and procedures for monitoring compliance and outcomes in conciliations, settlements, and consent decrees entered to resolve claims initiated by the EEOC. As appropriate, employers may consider implementing measures to assess the effectiveness of their educational and training programs to ensure that they incorporate current best practices and are appropriately tailored to reflect changes in organizational operations, workforce composition, and application and interpretation of federal and comparable state laws.

Continued Education and Outreach

A second prong of the EEOC's Strategic Plan identifies the agency's continued focus on education and outreach initiatives. For example, the Strategic Plan notes that the EEOC began to offer training on Leading for Respect (for supervisors) and Respect in the Workplace (for all employees) in FY 2018. The EEOC also has announced its intention to focus on digital technology and to enhance the agency's use of social media to reach audiences. As the EEOC continues to focus on maximizing the impact and effectiveness of its communications, employers should likewise consider assessing their use of internal and external communication channels to ensure that policies and programs that impact employees and applicants are disseminated in a clear and timely manner. Employers may need to evaluate whether information about rights and responsibilities, and responses to informal or formal complaints, are communicated in a sufficiently usable and timely manner to ensure that it reaches appropriate audiences. Employers also should consider periodically assessing whether and how to monitor and utilize new communication platforms.


Recent developments, including the public and media attention on the "#MeToo" movement, have resulted in heightened external scrutiny of workplace culture and relationships. Although these events have prompted many employers to reevaluate training and other priorities for 2018, the EEOC's Strategic Plan, together with other, recent EEOC publications outlining the agency's priorities and accomplishments, provides another resource for employers to consider when analyzing existing policies and performance measures and formulating budgets and strategies for coming years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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