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PRESS RELEASE
4-4-06

EEOC MAKES FIGHT AGAINST SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION A TOP PRIORITY

WASHINGTON - Making the fight against systemic discrimination an agency-wide top priority, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Tuesday adopted recommendations from an internal task force report that focus on strengthening the Commission's nationwide approach to investigating and litigating systemic cases.

The task force, led by Commissioner Leslie E. Silverman, defined systemic cases as "pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic location." The full task force report is available on the EEOC's web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/task_reports/systemic.html.

Chair Cari M. Dominguez said, "I want to commend Commissioner Silverman and her task force for the excellent work they have done on this report. This is a very important initiative and I am pleased that the Commission will be moving forward to implement its recommendations."

"By implementing the Task Force's recommendations, the Commission is sharpening its focus on systemic discrimination," Commissioner Silverman said. "Our field offices should handle all systemic investigations and litigation. That's where we have our greatest resources and strengths, not to mention a proven track record. Field offices should partner and share expertise to maximize Commission resources. Headquarters' role should be to assist and support the field's systemic program."

The task force was established in 2005 and charged by Chair Dominguez with examining the EEOC's systemic program and recommending new strategies for addressing this type of employment discrimination. Task force members worked together for nearly a year, conducted interviews, held focus groups, and surveyed EEOC staff and external stakeholders.

The Task Force embarked on its work, as its report states, "with the recognition that the Commission cannot effectively combat discrimination without a strong nationwide systemic program." While concluding that the EEOC has successfully investigated, conciliated and litigated numerous systemic cases, the Task Force also found many opportunities for improvement. The report states: ". . . EEOC does not consistently and proactively identify systemic discrimination. Instead, the agency typically focuses on individual allegations raised in charges."

Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru, who praised the Task Force's work during Tuesday's meeting, said, "I strongly support the recommendations of the Systemic Task Force. If followed fully, I am confident that the recommendations will drastically improve the EEOC's systemic enforcement efforts."

Among the motions approved by the Commission Tuesday:

  • Systemic investigations and litigation will be conducted in the field, and the systemic investigation and litigation units in headquarters will be eliminated.
  • Each district in the field must develop Systemic Plans to ensure that the Commission is identifying and investigating systemic discrimination in a coordinated, strategic, effective agency-wide manner.
  • The Office of General Counsel should facilitate the staffing of systemic cases using a national law firm model, whereby cases are staffed with employees who have the expertise needed in each particular case.

Among the directives issued by the Chair:

  • The Office of Information Technology is required to prepare an action plan addressing the Task Force's recommendations related to technology and submit the Plan to the Commission by June 30, 2006.
  • Members of the Commission and employees who engage in outreach are encouraged to educate employers and other members of the public about systemic discrimination, including trends and issues the agency has identified and cases the agency has handled.

The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing the nation's laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov