U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Milestones: 2007

  • At its February meeting, the Commission unveiled the E-RACE (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment) initiative to identify issues and barriers that contribute to race and color dis­crimination.  The initiative explored strategies to improve the administrative enforcement and the litigation of race and color discrimination claims and to enhance the public's awareness of persistent race and color discrimination in employment. The agency developed a set of detailed E-RACE goals and objectives to be achieved within a 5-year time frame, from fiscal years 2008 to 2013.
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    The EEOC formed the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Work Group, whose task is to examine the community's concerns about federal sector employment, special emphasis programs, and the complaints process.
  • The Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs produced two videos on the agency's history and mission: Advancing Justice and Opportunity in the Workplace and Breaking Ground for
    Justice and Opportunity.

Notable Supreme Court Decisions

  • Disregarding years of EEOC practice, the Supreme Court held in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. that the period for filing an EEOC charge challenging pay discrimination begins when the pay-setting decision is made, not when the individual becomes aware of the pay discrimination. It held that a Title VII charge ordinarily must be filed within 180/300 days of the time when that decision was originally made. This decision was later overturned in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Significant Appellate Decisions

  • The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in AARP, et al. v. EEOC, 489 F.3d 558 (3rd Circ. 2007) upheld EEOC's authority, under the ADEA, to promulgate a narrow regulatory exemption that allows employers to coordinate retiree health care benefits with age-based eligibility for Medicare or a comparable state-sponsored retiree health benefits program without satisfying the ADEA's "equal benefits or equal cost" rule.
  • In EEOC v. WC&M Enterprises, 496 F.3d 393 (5th Cir. 2007) the Fifth Circuit, relying primarily on EEOC's guidelines, held that "a party is able to establish a discrimination claim based on its own national origin even though the discriminatory acts do not identify the victim's actual country of origin."  The court noted that EEOC's guidelines make clear that "'it is enough to show that the complainant was treated differently because of his foreign accent, appearance or physical character­istics.'"      
  • In Holly v. Clairson Industries, 492 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2007) the plaintiff, a paraplegic, had alleged that the defendant violated the ADA by failing to provide him a reasonable accommo­dation for his disability, and by discharging him for violating the company's "no fault" punctuality policy.  The 11th Circuit agreed with the EEOC's amicus brief and ruled there was a genuine issue as to whether "strict punctuality" was essential to Holly's mold polisher position. 

Notable EEOC Trial Victories

  • In EEOC v. Alamo Rent-A-Car, LLC, No. 2:02-cv-01908-ROS (D. Ariz. June 1, 2007), a jury awarded $287,640, including $250,000 in punitive damages, to a former customer sales representative who was terminated for refusing to remove her headscarf during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  A federal district judge previously found the defendant liable for religious discrimination for failing to reason­ably accommodate the sales representative's request to wear a headscarf as required by her sincerely held religious beliefs and practices.
  • In EEOC v. Southwestern Bell Telephone, L.P, No. 3:06CV00176 JLH, 2007 WL 2891379 (E.D. Ark. Oct. 3, 2007), a jury awarded $756,000 to two former employees who were denied a reasonable accom­modation (i.e. leave) to attend a Jehovah's Witnesses religious convention.  The EEOC alleged that the defendant refused to grant the employees one day of leave to attend the convention, despite granting such leave in previous years.  The employees attended the convention and were subsequently sus­pended and discharged.
  • In EEOC v. Bobrich Enterprises, Inc. (N.D. Tex. July 27, 2007), a jury awarded $176,500 to an area supervisor who was subjected to a hostile work environment due to her severe hearing impairment, in violation of the ADA.  The EEOC alleged that the defendant's owner and its human resources manager repeatedly mocked the employee saying to her in front of other employees things like "read my lips," "can you hear me now?," and "you got your ears on?"  The employee resigned because she was no longer able to tolerate the comments and jokes about her impairment. 

Notable EEOC Resolutions

  • EEOC v. Ford Motor Co. (S.D. Ohio Dec. 20, 2007) settled for $1.6 million for a class of nearly 700 current and former African American employees who took the Apprentice Training Selec­tion System test at 14 different facilities and were not placed on an apprenticeship program eligibility list. This suit is a successor case to the EEOC's earlier suit against Ford and UAW which was settled for $8.5 million in 2005 and covers additional people disadvantaged by the test who were not covered in the earlier settlement.  In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree provides for the selection of 55 class members for placement on an apprenticeship program eligibility list at one of the defendant's facilities. 
  • EEOC v. Woodward Governor Co. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 2007) settled for $5 million to approximately 120 African American, Hispanic, and Asian employees and approximately 230 female employees subjected to race, national origin, and sex discrimination in violation of Title VII and the EPA.   The EEOC alleged that the company discriminated against these groups with respect to compensation, promotion and training.  The company's supervisors had essentially standardless authority to make compensation, promotion and training decisions, and expert analysis showed significant disparities between the compensation of white and minority employees and between male and female employees. 
  • EEOC v. Sidley Austin, LLP (N.D. Ill. Oct. 5, 2007) settled for $27.5 million for 32 individuals who were subjected to age discrimination. The EEOC alleged that the company expelled 32 partners because of their ages and maintained an age-based retirement policy.  The case raised the important question of when members of a professional partnership can be considered employees under the ADEA (and employment discrim­ination laws generally).  In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree included substantial injunctive relief to prevent age-based policies and practices in the future.

Notable Federal Sector Decisions

  • In Getzlow v. Dep't of Homeland Sec., EEOC Appeal No., 0120053286, the Commission set forth the proper interpretation and application of the Rehabilitation Act regarding EEO complaints by security screeners subject to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA).  The Commis­sion held that whether a complaint by a security screener states a claim under the Rehabilitation Act must be determined on a case-by-case basis, in light of the specific allegations made, and depends on whether there is any conflict between ATSA-mandated qualifications and the com­plainant's Rehabilitation Act claim.

Significant EEOC Guidance

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