Established in 1965, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes its mandate from several legislative points, namely Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. But even though most Americans are familiar with the acronym, they may not fully understand the various roles and functions the EEOC fulfills in American life. Below, we’ve compiled five of the most vital roles of this commission to educate even the most casual reader.

1. On the Lookout for Discrimination

Perhaps the most important role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the enforcement of federal laws regarding non-discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC is the first line of defense for the working body politic. These laws prevent employer discrimination by ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender and sexual orientation, sex, and other factors.

They act in cases of age discrimination, misuse of genetic information, and enforce laws against the retroactive punishment of whistle blowers. Any business with fifteen employees or more is subject to these statutes, although age discrimination laws are applied to companies employing 20 or more individuals.

2. Hearing Complaints in Mediation

Before a discrimination case going before a judge and jury of peers, the EEOC seeks to mediate it. In the fiscal year 2015, the EEOC successfully mediated 92,641 cases, with a resolution rate of 18.1 per cent. While not all the cases that came before them were successfully settled outside of court, the Council possesses powers of enforcement that secured 16,760 individuals compensation for complaints lodged against current or former employers. Because the number of companies willing to mediate complaints is substantially lower than that of employees who agree to the procedure, the EEOC encourages businesses to enter a Universal Agreement to Mediate program, which signals their willingness to peacefully negotiate claims outside of court.

3. Special Initiatives of the EEOC

Rather than just enforcing the federal body of law regarding discrimination, the EEOC creates and implements special initiatives to further their goals of workplace equality. Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment (E-RACE) is an important part of their work. The Council seeks to critically identify and target barriers and issues in the workplace that directly contribute to ethnicity related inequality in the workplace. A similar program, Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities (LEAD) targets discriminatory hiring practices and impediments to fulfilling and useful employment of individuals with physical or mental conditions. This initiative particularly focuses on the involvement of such individuals in Federal positions.

4. Special Ops in the EEOC

The Council may form special task forces to study specific issues and make policy suggestions. One long-running example of these particular groups is the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Over the course of 18 months, this committee studied instances of harassment, risks to employers and employees, factors in the workplace that directly contribute to bullying, and the impact of enforcement of general legislation on these instances. They then create a summary report and a set of deliverables to the EEOC for consideration and action.

5. Cooperation with Other Agencies

Because Federal agencies are often interdependent when it comes to implementation of their policies and projects, the EEOC works with some other government bodies to further the goals of equality. Such programs include law enforcement, a particular area of concern for equal hiring opportunities for women and individuals of color; an inter-agency cooperative effort to improve enforcement of federal laws within federal agencies; the prevention of human trafficking as a source of illegal revenue and violations of international and national human rights laws; and programs to ease the re-entry of released inmates into society as a primary means to prevent recidivism.

The EEOC dedicates its time to improving the workplace equality for all Americans. They both enforce existing federal laws and work to create policy initiatives that will support that implementation. But one of the primary functions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Council is as a means of action for working America, ensuring that there are avenues of action, restitution, and resolution if discrimination occurs.

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