U.S. commission to keep pressure on 'systemic discrimination' in 2013: Report

Enforcement to target equal pay, hiring barriers, protections for immigrant workers

(Reuters) — Employers in the Unites States should expect a renewed push by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to combat workplace discrimination this year, after record recoveries in 2012, a report by Littler Mendelson said.

The agency will target enforcement in a number of areas and will increase investigations of what it calls "systemic discrimination," which involves company policy or affects 20 or more people at a company.

The agency is enforcing discrimination laws with a "very broad brush," said Barry Hartstein, the report's executive editor and the head of Littler's EEOC team.

Enforcement will target equal pay, hiring barriers and protections for immigrant, migrant and vulnerable workers, the report said.

It also predicted the agency will focus on access to the legal system for employees, the prevention of harassment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals coverage under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

"With the reelection of President Obama and the Democratic gains in Congress, the EEOC can be expected to pursue its agenda with renewed vigor and to revisit stalled initiatives," Hartstein said.

In 2012, the agency recovered $36 million as a result of systemic investigations, four times as much as it did in 2011.

In all, the agency recovered $365.4 million in monetary benefits in 2012, the most the EEOC has ever achieved through its administrative process. The agency also recovered an additional $44.2 million in the settlement of 254 lawsuits.

The agency completed 240 systemic investigations, which involve 20 or more expected class members. About 38 per cent of these cases resulted in reasonable cause determinations that found the employer policies were discriminatory, according to the report.

The report said that reasonable cause determinations are typically issued in less than five per cent of charges the agency investigates.

The Littler report also noted that among EEOC settlements of $1 million or more, six involved race discrimination or related harassment, five involved sexual discrimination or harassment, five involved disability discrimination and three involved age discrimination.

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