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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Juneteenth Day of Observance 2022

This June 19th or Juneteenth, we will celebrate the national holiday commemorating the end of America’s centuries-long practice of chattel slavery. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were legally free – more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Then and now, Juneteenth is a bittersweet, but powerful reminder that while our country’s promises of justice and equality remain unfulfilled, we must make steadfast progress toward fulfilling them.

As a descendant of enslaved persons, the daughter of parents who lived first-hand the indignities of the Jim Crow South, and Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), I am keenly aware of the pain, resilience, and hope Juneteenth embodies, particularly for Black Americans.

At the EEOC, we are committed to advancing justice for America’s workers, including Black employees and other people of color who have historically experienced systemic discrimination and, more recently, suffered disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. To advance racial equity for underserved communities, our agency is working to implement and track actions from the EEOC’s Equity Action Plan. One of our early accomplishments regarding the equity plan was the launch of our Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity, or HIRE. Through this partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the Commission is helping to expand access to good jobs for underrepresented workers, including Black employees and job seekers. And we continue to vigorously enforce the nation’s laws against workplace discrimination based on race, color, and national origin.

Additionally, the EEOC is examining long-standing barriers to equal employment opportunities in construction that have resulted in people of color and women being underrepresented in the industry and building trades. The construction sector has the potential to provide career pathways to high-paying jobs and economic prosperity and security for millions of workers. Unfortunately, too many women and people of color have either been shut out of construction jobs or face discrimination that limits their ability to thrive in these careers. Last month, the Commission held a hearing and heard from a wide range of witnesses about pervasive harassment and discrimination that workers of color and women workers face in the traditionally white and male-dominated construction industry. Amidst a historic $1.2 trillion investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the Commission heard promising practices to address systemic discrimination, increase diversity, and provide historically marginalized workers access to jobs that build up America’s roads, railways, and middle class.

We know from our work and based on recent acts of violence – including last month’s horrific shooting in Buffalo, which was motivated by anti-Black racism – that challenges remain in unearthing deep-rooted racism and intolerance from our society. Yet, the EEOC persists in its vital efforts to answer our nation’s call for racial justice and to uphold America’s cherished ideals of fairness and equality in the workplace.

This Juneteenth, the EEOC is proud to do our part to help fulfill our country’s promise of justice for all.