The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is doubling down on efforts to protect workers from discrimination involving artificial intelligence, pregnancy and long COVID, according to a strategic enforcement plan unveiled Thursday for fiscal years 2024-2028.
The agency said the plan also commits the EEOC to supporting employer efforts to proactively identify and address barriers to equal employment opportunity, cultivate a diverse pool of qualified workers and foster inclusive workplaces. One of the areas of focus will be discrimination, bias and hate directed against religious minorities, racial or ethnic groups and LGBTQI+ individuals.
“Through the [strategic enforcement plan’s] effective implementation, the agency will continue to advance equality and justice for all in workplaces across this nation, even as significant challenges remain,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement.
Updates to the existing enforcement plan include priorities related to the protection of workers affected by childbirth or related medical conditions in addition to pregnancy, including through the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and other laws. Additionally, the agency’s changes include a focus on employment discrimination associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19, as well as technology-related employment discrimination, including discrimination that may occur through employers’ use of artificial intelligence and machine learning for human resources functions such as job postings, the application process and hiring.
Also, the agency said that the plan is meant to preserve “access to the legal system by addressing overly broad waivers, releases, nondisclosure agreements or nondisparagement agreements when they restrict workers’ ability to obtain remedies for civil rights violations.”
The EEOC said that the process for developing the enforcement plan was a collaborative, bipartisan effort by working groups of staff members from its headquarters, field offices, commissioner’s offices and union. To obtain public input, the EEOC hosted three listening sessions that focused on racial and economic justice, vulnerable workers and other issues related to the agency’s current strategic enforcement priorities.
“We are grateful to the public — especially to those who participated in our listening sessions in Buffalo, New York, Washington, DC, and virtually, for their engagement and investment in the development of the [strategic enforcement plan]. This plan will help guide the agency’s work for years to come,” Burrows said.
The strategic enforcement plan works with the strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2026, published in August, by establishing substantive law enforcement priorities, the agency said.