Federal Agency Found Class of Employees Illegally Required to Waive their Rights to Resolve Grievances
CHICAGO - The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), one of the largest agencies of the State of Illinois with more than 13,000 employees, has agreed to revamp retaliatory policies and procedures to conciliate a retaliation charge investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
EEOC's investigation revealed that IDHS required employees to waive their rights under federal anti-discrimination statutes as a condition of employment, and refused to resolve grievances for employees who would not agree to waive their rights. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).
According to the three-year agreement resolving the matter, IDHS will provide annual training to all of its Labor Relations and Human Resources Managers on the topics of discrimination and harassment under Title VII, the EPA, the ADA, the ADEA, and GINA. IDHS has also agreed to remove language from its Grievance Resolution Agreements suggesting that employees are prohibited from filing charges of discrimination with EEOC. IDHS will provide periodic reporting to EEOC on all employees who enter into grievance resolutions that resolve allegations of discrimination covered by Title VII, the EPA, the ADA, the ADEA, and/or GINA.
IDHS has further agreed to toll the period for filing timely charges with EEOC for certain employees who resolved grievances, and will post an internal notification to all of its employees of this conciliation. Furthermore, IDHS will notify all of the Unions representing its employees of the terms of the conciliation and the need to revise grievance resolutions.
"This resolution should serve as a reminder to all employers not to prohibit the rights of employees to file complaints of employment discrimination with the EEOC," said Julianne Bowman, director of EEOC's Chicago District Office. "Our focus on this right of employees will continue."
The EEOC also announced today that it has reached a conciliation agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools (Special School District 1), the third largest school district in the state of Minnesota, which has agreed to remove language in its severance agreements which states that the departing employee agrees not to pursue a discrimination charge arising out of his or her employment by the school district. An investigation by EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office revealed that the school district used language in its "agreement and release" which prohibited those who signed the agreements from filing charges of discrimination arising out of their employment in return for severance benefits.
The conciliation agreements announced today are part of the EEOC's ongoing efforts to implement its Updated Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). The Commission adopted this SEP on October 17, 2016. The SEP includes "preserving access to the legal system" as a top Commission enforcement policy.
EEOC's Chicago District is responsible for investigating charges of discrimination in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.