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Meeting of July 18, 2012 – Public Input into the Development of EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan

Written Testimony of Fatima Goss Graves
Employment Task Force
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Chair Berrien and Commissioners:

My name is Fatima Goss Graves and I am Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center. I am pleased to be here today, along with my colleague Ray McClain, on behalf of the Employment Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Many of the Commission’s recent meetings, guidance and regulations provide a roadmap for the particular types of discrimination we believe should make up the focus of the Commission’s strategic enforcement plan, especially the focus on systemic enforcement of practices that discriminate against older workers, workers with disabilities, and based on race, ethnicity, sex, and religion. The written comments filed on behalf of the Leadership Conference and many of its member organizations provide greater detail, but my comments today are focused on a few key areas of systemic enforcement.

First, as our economy struggles to recover from the recession, and Americans slowly go back to work, it is important that the Commission continue to shine a light on employer policies and practices that exclude workers from consideration for employment. Removing these barriers will make great strides in addressing the tremendous rates of unemployment among many groups of workers represented in the Employment Task Force. We therefore recommend that the Commission focus on screening practices that have a disparate impact on protected classes, including the consideration of criminal records, credit history, unemployment status, and requirements that information be submitted to reveal an applicants age.

It also is a priority for the Employment Task Force to focus on enforcement following the recent ADA Amendment regulations. This would allow the Commission to help develop the law in this area and make real improvements in employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Another related priority for the Employment Task Force that warrants emphasis in the plan is pregnancy and caregiver discrimination. Over the last decade there has been a 35 percent increase in pregnancy discrimination charges. Given the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s requirement that employers treat pregnant workers at least as well as they treat those similar in their ability or inability to work, the expanded reasonable accommodation in the amendments to the ADA mean that in many circumstances the PDA too now requires reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers.

We also urge the Commission to continue to focus on enforcement actions to remedy company-wide sex-based pay discrimination. To that end, we recommend that it invest in high-profile systemic enforcement actions and, in particular, those that target employers in predominantly low-wage industries. Moreover, moving forward with the Commission’s compensation data collection efforts will ensure that it has the information to detect and respond to pressing pay disparities through systemic enforcement actions.

Finally, the Employment Task Force recommends that the Commission bring enforcement actions to protect individuals who suffer sex-based discrimination for failure to conform to sex-based stereotypes. A focus in this area is particularly timely in light of the recent 5-0 decision holding that discrimination against an employee based on the employee’s gender identity is sex-based discrimination in violation of Title VII.

Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in today’s round table on the Commission’s strategic enforcement plan. I look forward to any questions.