The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.
The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
Authority & Role
The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law. Its role in an investigation is to fairly and accurately assess the allegations in the charge and then make a finding. If the agency finds that discrimination has occurred, it will try to settle the charge. If the agency isn’t successful, they have the authority to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public. They do not, however, file lawsuits in all cases where we find discrimination.
Keep in mind that the EEOC rarely files suit on behalf of an individual. Moreover, they have been heavily criticized as being no more than an administrative hurdle in enforcing equal employment rights. That is, relative to the number of court claims that are filed by individuals each year, the EEOC is responsible for settling only a small fraction of cases and brings only tiny number of lawsuits. Many lawyers representing employees find the agency a waste of time.
The EEOC provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies on all aspects of the federal government’s equal employment opportunity program. EEOC assures federal agency and department compliance with EEOC regulations, provides technical assistance to federal agencies concerning EEO complaint adjudication, monitors and evaluates federal agencies’ affirmative employment programs, develops and distributes federal sector educational materials and conducts training for stakeholders, provides guidance and assistance to our Administrative Judges who conduct hearings on EEO complaints, and adjudicates appeals from administrative decisions made by federal agencies on EEO complaints.
We carry out our work through our headquarters offices in Washington, D.C. and through 53 field offices serving every part of the nation.