WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received recommendations yesterday from representatives of the AFL-CIO and AARP on how the agency can be more responsive to the needs of union members and older workers. The recommendations were made at the third Commission Meeting of a special series convened by EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro to focus on the concerns of agency stakeholders.
"The AFL-CIO and AARP represent major segments of the U.S. workforce that have a critical stake in ensuring equal employment opportunity," Ms. Castro said. "By engaging in an active dialogue about the needs of organized labor and older workers, EEOC will be better equipped to enhance customer service and educate employers about their EEO responsibilities -- which will help to rid America's workplaces of discrimination."
The Commission heard testimony from: Richard G. Womack, Director, Civil and Human Rights Department, AFL-CIO; and Michele Pollak, Legislative Representative, Federal Affairs Department, AARP. While Mr. Womack and Ms. Pollak praised EEOC for its ongoing enforcement reforms -- slashing the pending inventory of private sector charges; lowering average charge processing time; expanding its mediation program; and increasing outreach, education, and technical assistance -- they also highlighted several areas in need of greater attention.
"EEOC is doing a great job, and we commend and salute you for that effort, but more needs to be done," said Mr. Womack. He recommended that the Commission establish a "Low-Wage Worker Task Force," which would work in tandem with community based organizations to provide targeted outreach. Mr. Womack noted that many low-wage employees are unaware of their rights under the laws enforced by EEOC and are unfamiliar with charge filing procedures. This is due mainly to a lack of education as well as cultural and language barriers. Because of these factors, he continued, employers too often take advantage of low-wage workers.
In order to "bring justice to ordinary working people," Mr. Womack asked EEOC to: continue its efforts to lower the average charge processing time (currently about 276 days), especially for cases of egregious discrimination; improve enforcement of cases involving equal pay and disability discrimination through better screening methods; and examine how the agency's Charge Data System can be used to identify employers who discriminate in multiple geographic locations.
AARP's Ms. Pollak called on EEOC to continue its vigorous enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and noted that, "the Commission's actions on behalf of the rights of older workers has a profound effect on the lives of AARP's 14 million working members." She urged EEOC to consider issuing a new substantive rule under the ADEA to address the issue of disparate impact in light of questions involving the Supreme Court's ruling in Hazen Paper v. Biggens.
In addition, Ms. Pollak expressed AARP's desire to work with the Commission in providing additional outreach to older workers in order to educate them about their rights under the ADEA and to promote voluntary compliance by employers.
"I appreciate the thoughtful suggestions and fresh insights that our distinguished guests shared with us at today's meeting," Chairwoman Castro said. "The AFL-CIO and AARP are both invaluable partners in our efforts to provide equal employment opportunities for every American. I can assure both organizations that their recommendations will be given serious consideration, and look forward to our ongoing work and collaboration."
EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency's web site (www.eeoc.gov).
This page was last modified on March 24, 1999.
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