Issues of equality and combating discrimination in employment represent one of the key areas in the field of human rights protection in the modern world. The Equal Full Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 and began operations on July 2, 1965 (Buckley, 2018). In 1972, and later in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was amended to the law (Buckley, 2018). The Commission seeks to reduce cases of discrimination based on race, color, religion, nationality affiliation, gender, as well as in all other conditions of employment.
In addition, the Commission promotes the implementation of voluntary action programs developed by employers, trade unions, and local organizations to realize the right to equal employment opportunities. The penalties for non-compliance with EEOC anti-discrimination requirements differ depending on the kind of discrimination and the company’s size; as a rule, the maximum civil penalties are in the range from $50,000 to $300,000 (Buckley, 2018).
The Commission has the authority to oversee compliance activities, including legislation prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities by employers (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d). The Commission has 48 representations, whose function is legal protection and examination of complaints. The percentages of disability discrimination charges have increased every year since 2008, which coincides with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments (ADA) of 2008, effective January 1, 2009 (Taylor, 2020). In particular, on March 1, 2019, the EEOC filed the case No.1:19-cv-00165, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc., in the District Court for the Western District of Michigan (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2019). The lawsuit was initiated based on the ADA on behalf of a former employee of Herbruck, Melinda Crooke, who is suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD) and Tourette’s Syndrome – a disability within the meaning of the ADA based (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2019). Throughout working at Herbruck since 2014, according to the EEOC, Crooke was harassed by her co-workers and a supervisor because of her disability. She was constantly subjected to mockery and captious criticism. When Crooke addressed the human resource representative, she did not receive any help.
The ADA protects employees from discrimination based on disability, including disability harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Based on ADA provisions, EEOC applied its procedures according to its authorities, attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the use of its statutorily mandated conciliation process (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.). As the attempt failed because Herbruck refused to compromise, EEOC filed the case to the District Court.
In the Consent Decree settling the disability discrimination case, with the signature by U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff on December 5, 2019, Herbruck agreed to pay $93,000 in frames of resolving the case (Taylor, 2020). The Consent Decree also stipulated that Herbruck has to ensure training to all its employees on inappropriateness of disability discrimination, including coaching on the bans contained in ADA against harassment. Moreover, the EEOC obliged Herbruck to revise its corporate policies on anti-discrimination and prohibition of harassment, as well as required Herbruck to take appropriate actions to respond to all complaints regarding disability-based assaults, with implementing corresponding actions.
The basis for checking the observance of the law is usually considered to be an appeal to the court for its violation. The enforcement of a statutory ruling begins at the time of bringing charges, but the EEOC can verify the enforcement of the law even if there has been no addressing to the court, as in the case of Crooke above. When an applicant-employee considers himself/herself a victim of discrimination or harassment, he/she can apply with a complaint to the EEOC, as the Commission enforces observance of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation on workplace equality. The EEOC suggests mediation services to meet and discuss – a process enabling to resolve the issue by fast way and with low expense.
The employer should confirm obtaining of the complaint of employee, as well as mediation purposes charge, as the best option for the interest of the company to avoid unnecessary spending of time and money, and deteriorating company’s reputation. The EEOC highly encourages mediation, as in many instances, it results in a mutually agreed settlement pay. Moreover, the outcome is not made public, and this confidentiality prevents decrease in the employer company goodwill. In the case of Crooke, Herbruck did not manifest good sense (perhaps, because it oriented more on B2B sector), and the case was resolved in court.
It should be noted that EEOC investigations can last up to six months, and as a federal agency responsible for observing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws of federal level, concerning rights in the field of employment, the Commission at any time has the right to force the employer to provide the documents. Refusing to provide materials can negatively impact the EEOC’s final decision. EEOC issued a press release on the lawsuit against Herbruck Poultry Ranch on December 5, 2019 – in 8 months after the case initiation. The case considered above represents a typical outcome of EEOC efforts on enabling enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation and consequences for employers who admit discriminatory practices and do not want to cooperate with the Commission.
The above-mentioned case clearly shows what consequences can arise for the company due to non-compliance with EEOC official rules regarding non-discrimination in the workplace. In addition to rather significant financial sanctions, the public reporting of the case casts a shadow on the company’s reputation, reducing its attractiveness to clients and investors, especially institutional ones. This creates tangible negative long-term effects for the company performance and market position. In this context, it is evident that responsible human resource management, and competent diversity management are crucial for any company wishing to retain and develop its competitive advantage and market value, including goodwill.
Buckley, J. F. (2018). Equal employment opportunity compliance guide. Wolters Kluwer.
Taylor, R. B. (2020). EEOC FY 2019 statistics released: Charges of discrimination are at an all-time low but the percentage of retaliation charges continues to rise. ButlersNow. Web.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2019). Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc. pays $93,000 to settle EEOC harassment and retaliation suit. The National Law Review. Web.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). What Laws Does EEOC Enforce? Web.