The Latest Activity from the EEOC in 2014

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of the major regulatory agencies affecting employers in any field, not just within the healthcare arena. And the Commission has remained highly active through the first part of 2014. Here’s a quick overview of some of the latest developments concerning the EEOC and what they mean for employers.

The EEOC Issues Guidance on Religious Dress

One of the most recent developments from the EEOC is their guidance on the issue of religious dress and grooming in the workplace. The guidance follows as a result of several lawsuits accusing employers of religious discrimination by refusing to accommodate certain types of religious dress or grooming, says Dorraine Larison of Gray Plant Mooty. In the EEOC’s “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities” guidance, the commission provides the following guidelines:

  • Employees covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (15 employees or more) must make exceptions to general rules to accommodate employees to follow religiously mandates dress and grooming practices
  • Title VII also protects religious beliefs that are “new, uncommon, or not a part of a formal church”.
  • Retaliation based on a request for religious accommodation is also forbidden under Title VII.

These are just a few of the points in the EEOC’s recent guidance on religious dress. Click here to read the full-text of the guidance.

The EEOC and Social Media in the Workplace

In March 2014, the EEOC held a public meeting on social media in the workplace, and its impact on the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws. While the purpose of the meeting was not to issue guidance on the use of social media, Commissioner Victoria Lipnic described the public hearing as a “listening session.” Recently, research has confirmed that employers may be using social media to discriminate in the workplace. Employers, therefore, should be careful before using social media for hiring practices, as it could expose employers to more information than legally allowed to ask during interviews. Still, it looks like the commission may be more lenient with employers when it comes to this topic. EEOC Commissioner Constance Barker stated that she has a “total lack of sympathy for all the people who blast their private lives on Facebook and other social media.”

Criticism of the EEOC’s Background Check Guidelines

While the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on employer’s use of background checks was issued in April 2012, there’s been much activity and controversy since the release of these guidelines. In February 2014, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report that targeted the EEOC’s background check guidelines, in which they accused the agency of its overreach on racism. In the 350-page report, members from the civil rights panel argued that the EEOC’s guidelines are “deeply flawed” and so vague as to be useless. In November 2013, the State of Texas filed a lawsuit against the EEOC,, stating that the EEOC has overstepped its legal bounds. While the EEOC’s guidance pertaining to employers’ use of background checks has received much criticism, that hasn’t stopped the EEOC from suing large companies over their background check policies.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit