WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a new section to its Compliance Manual which provides the Commission's first comprehensive analysis of some of the most important employee benefits issues under the anti- discrimination laws.
The new Compliance Manual section analyzes benefit discrimination claims under each of the laws enforced by the Commission, clearly explaining that the laws prohibit discrimination in fringe benefits. "This guidance makes clear that employers are never allowed to consider employees' race, color, sex, national origin, or religion, nor retaliate against them, in connection with their benefits plan," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro "The section also explains that benefit plan provisions that differentiate on the basis of age or disability must be carefully scrutinized to ensure they do not run afoul of the law."
The section examines the legal standards that apply to claims of discrimination in health and life insurance benefits, long-term and short-term disability benefits, severance benefits, pension or other retirement benefits, and early retirement incentives. The limited circumstances in which the law permits employers to provide lower benefits to older employees than to younger workers and the specific requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act are set forth.
Ms. Castro added: "Issuing this new section is a major step in EEOC's continuing efforts to update and streamline its Compliance Manual in order to aid our investigators and attorneys in handling claims involving discrimination in employee benefits while also enhancing our customer service." The new Compliance Manual section replaces former Section 627: Employee Benefit Plans and seven other Commission policy statements.
This is the second issuance of new sections to the Compliance Manual in recent months. In May, EEOC issued a new section on "threshold" issues, the factors considered by the Commission in determining who can pursue a legal claim of employment discrimination. The full text of the both new sections, as well as other information about the Commission, is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 and older; the Equal Pay Act, which bars sex-based differences in compensation; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.