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EEOC faces criticism from House panel studying transparency measures

Posted On: Sep. 19, 2014 12:00 AM CST

The chairman of a House of Representatives subcommittee sharply criticized the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during a hearing that was considering three bills intended to increase the agency's transparency and accountability.

In prepared remarks, Rep. Tim Walberg, R, Mich., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, on Wednesday said the EEOC's mission is to help stop discrimination.

“Unfortunately in recent years, the EEOC has shifted its focus away from that vital mission. Instead, it has spent a great deal of time and resources advancing a deeply flawed enforcement and regulatory agenda,” Rep. Walberg said.

“Employers have fallen under EEOC's intense scrutiny without any allegation of employment discretion,” he continued. “Charges are being filed in federal court with little to no evidence of wrongdoing. Federal judges have harshly and appropriately criticized the agency for its shoddy legal work.”

“Not only is the EEOC dropping the ball with its misguided enforcement priorities, it is also pursuing a regulatory scheme that is making it more difficult to protect employees and consumers,” he said.

Rep. Walberg said the proposed measures are “common sense reforms” that will change the agency's course.

The legislation, all of which has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is:

• H.R. 4959, the proposed EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act introduced in June, which would require the EEOC to maintain up-to-date information on its website regarding charges and actions brought by the EEOC.

• H.R. 5422, the proposed Litigation Oversight Act of 2014, introduced Sept. 9, which would require the EEOC to approve or disapprove by a majority vote either to begin or intervene in litigation involving multiple plaintiffs or systemic discrimination.

• H.R. 5423, the proposed Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2014, also introduced Sept. 9, which is intended to protect employers from EEOC action in cases involving criminal background checks that are required by state or local law, according to testimony at the hearing.

Asked to respond to the congressman’s comments and the proposed legislation, an EEOC spokeswoman said in an email: "We do not comment on pending legislation.

“The EEOC takes its conciliation obligations seriously. With respect to pre-suit obligations, we successfully conciliated 1,437 cases in fiscal year 2013. In just two years’ time, EEOC improved its conciliation results by 10%, with successful conciliations now at a 41% rate. This means that employers are coming to the table after an investigation where we conclude that there is reason to believe that employment discrimination occurred, and resolving those complaints without the need for protracted litigation. Even before conciliation efforts take place, over 14,000 charges are settled with EEOC or private settlements.

“Furthermore, by any measure, the EEOC has compiled a remarkable record at trial in recent years. Although going to trial is always a risk, the EEOC prevailed in 9 out of 10 jury trials during in 2013."