shutterstock_314621255The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) unveiled its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for fiscal years 2017-2021.  The new plan approved on Monday, Oct. 17, looks much like its predecessor, seeks to continue areas outlined in the EEOCs 2013-2016 plan, and reaffirms the agency’s commitment to equal opportunity in America’s workplaces, which includes protecting immigrant and migrant workers.

As the EEOC reinforces its existing efforts to address pay discrimination based on sex, the new plan also seeks to combat pay discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, and disability. In particular, the EEOC targets disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, trafficking and other discriminatory practices and policies affecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers.  Such workers are often unaware of their rights under the equal employment laws or may be hesitant to exercise them.

The new 2017-2021 plan continues to prioritize the same areas as the previous 2013-2016 SEP, including the following:

  1. Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring.
  2. Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers.
  3. Addressing Emerging and Developing Issues.
  4. Enforcing Equal Pay Laws for All Workers.
  5. Preserving Access to the Legal System.
  6. Preventing Harassment Through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach.

In addition to building on the areas identified in the last SEP, the new plan also set forth two new emerging areas of increasing priority, namely: 1) issues related to complex employment relationships in the 21st century workplace; and 2) backlash discrimination against those who are Muslim or Sikh, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. The lack of diversity in technology and the increasing use of data driven screening tools are also recognized as focus areas within the priority on barriers in the hiring and recruitment process, as the use of algorithms or data driven screening tools used to help determine characteristics of good hires could negatively impact protected classes.

The EEOC’s Chair, Jenny R. Yang, noted that “This SEP builds on the EEOC’s progress in addressing persistent and developing issues by sharpening the agency’s area of focus and updating the plan to recognize additional areas of emerging concern.” The new SEP also emphasizes coordinated strategies across the EEOC to leverage the agency’s resources and promote practices that reduce workplace discrimination.