U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Milestones: 2006

  • In April, the Commission began its Systemic Initiative in order to focus on those employers maintaining policies and practices that discriminate against classes of workers and job applicants.  Under the Systemic Initiative, the agency utilized all of its tools - technical assistance, broad-based investigations, conciliation, and, as a last resort, litigation - to end unlawful employer practices of wide-scale discrimination.  The Commission developed a "national law firm" approach, with EEOC offices across the country combining resources to confront employers engaged in widespread discrimination.
  • Chair Naomi C. Earp

    On August 31, President Bush appointed Naomi C. Earp, previously Vice Chair, as the 13th Chair of the Commission.   Approximately 15 years earlier, Chair Earp had served as a Special Assistant / Legal Advisor to then-Chair Clarence Thomas.
  • As part of President Bush's New Freedom Initiative, the EEOC issued a "Final Report on Best Practices for the Employment of People with Disabilities in State Government."  The report described practices in nine participating states that promote the employment of people with disabilities generally.  The report also described practices or policies that may inadvertently result in barriers to employment of disabled workers.
  • The EEOC launched its Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities (LEAD) initiative, a national outreach and education campaign to raise awareness about the declining numbers of people with severe disabilities in federal employment.  Through a national outreach and education campaign, this initiative also aimed to educate individuals with severe disabilities and federal hiring officials about how to use special hiring authorities.
  • The Commission issued a final rule for implementing the posting requirements set forth in Title III of the No FEAR Act, requiring federal agencies to post on their public websites statistical data pertaining to EEO complaints filed by employees, former employees, and applicants for employment.

Notable Supreme Court Decisions

  • Two Supreme Court decisions were issued this year expanding the scope of retaliation and discussing the 15 employee minimum for coverage.

Notable Appellate Decisions

  • In Maldonado v. City of Altus, 433 F.3d 1294 (10th Cir. 2006), the Tenth Circuit concluded that the city's English-only policy could contribute to a hostile work environment for Hispanic employees. The court found the Commission's guideline on English-only rules persuasive: the Commission had "consistently concluded that an English-only policy, at least when no business need for the policy is shown, is likely in itself to 'create an atmosphere of inferiority, isolation, and intimidation' that constitutes a 'discriminatory working environment.'"  The EEOC filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. 
  • In BCI Coca-Cola v. EEOC, 450 F.3d 476 (10th Cir. 2006), the Tenth Circuit held that the racial animus of a supervisor could be imputed to the employer, making it liable for the discharge of a black employee even though the decision maker did not harbor any discriminatory motives.   
  • In EEOC v. Heartway Corp., 466 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir. 2006), the Tenth Circuit holds that the issue of whether to award punitive damages in an ADA case is a jury issue.  The case is reversed and remanded to the lower court for trial on the punitive damages claim.  The court also affirms the jury verdict finding the company liable for discrimination and the award of back pay and compensatory damages.  
  • In EEOC v. Dial Corp., 469 F.3d 735 (8th Cir. 2006), the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's disparate impact finding that Dial violated Title VII when it used a physical strength test to screen job applicants for entry-level positions at an Iowa meat-processing plant, resulting in a drastic reduction in the number of women hired. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding that Dial engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional sex discrimination. 

Notable EEOC Trial Victories

  • In Chellen and EEOC v. John Pickle Co., 446 F.Supp.2d 1247 (N.D. Okla. 2006), a federal district judge, ruled in favor of the EEOC and private plaintiffs and awarded approximately $1.3 million to 52 East Indian workers who were discriminated against in wages, other terms and conditions of employment and subjected to a hostile work environment because of their race and national origin.  The judge ruled that defendant was responsible for fraud and deceit, inadequate pay, sub-standard living conditions, false imprisonment, lockdowns with an armed guard, phone tapping, food rationing, restrictions on freedom to worship, degrading job assignments, ethnic slurs, intimidation, and the non-payment of wages earned.  This case was one of the first cases involving victims of human trafficking prosecuted under Title VII's prohibition against national origin discrimination.

Notable EEOC Resolutions

  • EEOC v. Trans Bay Steel Corp. (C.D. Cal. Dec. 8, 2006) settled for approximately $1 million to 48 Thai nationals who were subjected to different terms and conditions of employment including recruitment, hiring, pay, because of their national origin, in violation of Title VII.  The EEOC alleged that defendant contracted with an employment agency to recruit skilled welders into the United States from Thailand under H2B visas.  However, once in the U.S., the Thai welders were forced to work long hours at restaurants, homes, and apartments, for no pay.  Their passports were confiscated and they were held against their will, some confined to cramped apartments without electricity, water, or gas.
  • EEOC v. Independent School Dist. No. 834 of Stillwater, Minnesota (D. Minn. Aug. 18, 2006)settled for over $1.12 million for 58 former teachers and principals whose early retirement incentive payments were reduced because of their age, violating the Age Discrimination in Employ­ment Act (ADEA).  The EEOC alleged that the defendant reduced the amount of the early retirement incentive payment for each year as the employee grew older.  This settlement was one of 12 age discrimination lawsuits against Minnesota school districts filed by the EEOC challenging the early retirement plans.  All of the lawsuits settle for total monetary relief of over $2.6 million for more than 200 retired teachers and other employees.

Notable Federal Sector Decisions

  • In Louthen v. U.S. Postal Serv., EEOC Appeal No. 01A44521, the Commission addressed the issue of whether it is appropriate for EEOC administrative judges (AJs) to take witnesses' testimony by telephone.   The Commission found that testimony may only be taken by telephone when there is a finding of exigent circumstances or there is a joint and voluntary request by the parties with their informed consent.
  • In Allen v. U.S. Postal Serv., EEOC Appeal No. 01A51259, the Commission addressed the issue of whether it is appropriate for EEOC administrative judges to conduct hearings via video confer­ence.  The Commission found that because a video conference hearing more nearly approx­imates an in-person hearing than a telephonic hearing, it is appropriate to allow AJ's greater latitude than in Louthen in determining whether to conduct a hearing by video conference.

Significant EEOC Guidance

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