CHICAGO (January 11, 2022) -- Seyfarth has released its annual report on EEOC legal enforcement and court rulings, entitled EEOC-Initiated Litigation: 2022 Edition, the most definitive source of analysis that focuses exclusively on EEOC-related litigation. Authored by Seyfarth lawyers Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Christopher J. DeGroff, and Matthew J. Gagnon, this year's report provides detailed analysis of the major case filings, policy directives, and all federal court rulings involving the EEOC in 2021.

In most respects, 2021 was another year of great change at the Commission, but one where it was possible to discern a new direction for the agency. In its 2021 Fiscal Year, the EEOC continued to issue guidance for employers as they try to navigate the changes wrought by COVID-19. Throughout the year, that guidance switched from how to manage leave and disability policies to employers' responsibilities around vaccine mandates, vaccination status, and reasonable accommodations.

These EEOC initiatives occurred against a backdrop of massive political change. Last year, the Trump Administration's picks for EEOC leadership started to steer the agency in a new direction. Just when those efforts were picking up steam, the White House flipped from red to blue which led to an immediate change in the Chair of the Commission from a Republican, Janet Dhillon, to Charlotte A. Burrows, a Democrat. Some of the agency's more ambitious attempts to reign in its own powers and litigation enforcement were immediately reversed because of this leadership change.

This publication is meant to equip employers with information so they can protect themselves and their employees in this ever-changing regulatory and litigation environment. This year's report has been arranged into two main parts:

  • Part I of this book is arranged to coincide with the EEOC's six enforcement priorities as outlined in its Strategic Enforcement Plan. Each subsection highlights the most important judicial decisions and other litigation activity impacting EEOC-initiated litigation, as well as the agency rule-making and other legislative efforts and initiatives that were of particular importance to the EEOC's pursuit of these priorities and objectives in FY 2021. This analysis reveals the areas and issues where employers should focus their attention while considering employment-related business decisions. Some key highlights include the following:
  1. Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring - This year saw a number of judicial decisions involving the EEOC's attempts to combat discrimination in hiring practices, particularly discrimination against women, including through the use of pre-employment screening tests.
  2. Protecting vulnerable workers - The EEOC will focus on job segregation, harassment, trafficking, pay, retaliation, and other policies and practices against vulnerable workers including immigrant and migrant workers, as well as persons perceived to be members of these groups, and against members of underserved communities.
  3. Addressing selected emerging and developing issues - Part of the EEOC's mission is to monitor trends and developments in the law, workplace practices, and labor force demographics to identify emerging and developing issues that can be addressed through its enforcement program.
  4. Ensuring equal pay protections for all workers - The EEOC stressed that it will focus on compensation systems and practices that discriminate on any protected basis, such as race, ethnicity, age, or individuals with disabilities.
  5. Preserving access to the legal system - The EEOC will focus on policies and practices that limit substantive rights, discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or impede EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts.
  6. Preventing systemic harassment - Harassment continues to be one of the most frequent complaints raised in the workplace. The most frequent bases of harassment alleged are sex, race, disability, age, national origin, and religion.
  • Part II is a compilation of every significant ruling decided in 2021 that impacted EEOC-initiated litigation. In that section, critical procedural and evidentiary matters are outlined in detail to provide a comprehensive look at how companies might approach these issues when facing EEOC litigation, which serves as a resource of recent case authority for readers.
    • Motions to dismiss, procedural, and jurisdictional attacks
    • Discovery in EEOC cases
    • Dispositive motions in EEOC pattern or practice and single plaintiff cases
    • Judgments and remedies in EEOC litigation

Seyfarth's EEOC-Initiated Litigation report contains detailed legislative and regulatory updates, case studies, and a variety of charts, graphs, and maps tracking key EEOC case categories and historical data. You can learn more about the report at Seyfarth's Workplace Class Action Blog.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.