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General counsel take note: The EEOC, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, seems to be employing a new attitude.
The "new" Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is "aggressive, litigious and particularly on the lookout for matters involving multiple individuals alleging discrimination or claims of 'systemic discrimination,'" labor lawyer Evan Pontz writes for Inside Counsel.
While that may make in-house counsel concerned, consider the other side of the coin, Pontz says: It means you can take advantage of the EEOC's new mission -- by focusing on what they're not.
Litigation still comprises a large chunk of the EEOC's docket. The Commission filed 200 new cases in August and September alone, Pontz says.
But the EEOC now seems more focused on making broad changes in the workplace, rather than addressing claims brought by individual workers, he says.
Also consider that the EEOC's budget has been cut by 2% for the current fiscal year. That may seem small, but it means big changes for litigants.
First, it means the EEOC will likely focus its resources on high-profile cases, while letting less-significant cases fall by the wayside.
Attorneys whose clients are accused of discrimination may be in a better position to settle or mediate their cases, Pontz suggests.
Less money for litigation also means that EEOC investigators may get clumsy.
Pontz points to a recent case in Michigan, where the EEOC failed to look into a claim before filing suit against an employer. The court found no merit to the charges, and awarded more than $750,000 to cover the employer's court fees and costs.
The take-home message: Try "pressure-testing" the EEOC's theories at the start of the lawsuit, Pontz says. It's just another way to make the EEOC's new focus work for you.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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