Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

In a stinging rebuke of the Trump Administration’s attempt to remove burdensome regulations on employers, Judge Tanya Chutkan, a District Court judge in the District of Columbia this week reinstated the EEO-1 “Part 2” wage data/hours worked reporting form for all employers who file annual EEO-1 demographic reports with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the U.S. Department of Labor. (This includes all companies employing more than 100 people, or 50 people if they are a US federal contractor.)

This new data collection requirement, launched in 2016 by the Obama Administration EEOC, and strongly opposed by employers and employer advocacy groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will require employers to provide aggregated pay data and a summary of hours worked in 12 defined pay bands for each of 10 EEO-1 job and 14 gender race and ethnicity categories. This first-of-its-kind data compilation will require merging information from both HR and payroll systems—not an easy task. This was one of the burden arguments raised by the employer community along with the limited usefulness of the data and the challenge of merging the data accurately to fit the new pay bands.

The EEO-1 Part 2 requirements were promulgated by the EEOC through the normal administrative process and were approved by the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), the gatekeeper for all federal regulation. The Part 2 form was on the cusp of being implemented when the Trump Administration OMB announced in August 2017 it would review and stay the process. OMB stated it would revisit the burden arguments raised by employers, but provided scant analysis or explanation for the renewed effort.

Two advocacy groups, the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington D.C. based group, and the Labor Counsel for Latin American Advancement, sued OMB and the EEOC to reinstate the data collection requirement. In its ruling this week, the Court chided the Administration for failing to provide any factual or legal support for staying the previously authorized form and ruled the stay illegal. It also opined that overturning the stay would not be disruptive to the employer community since employers were on notice in 2017 and were aware that the stay could be lifted at any time!

Interestingly, the Court found that the plaintiffs would be harmed financially without access to the new data. The plaintiffs’ argument was simple, the promised data would aid their missions of advancing gender and ethnic equal pay initiatives. Without the pay data, they would have to spend their own resources compiling the data themselves. This was sufficient justification for the Court, but could set a dangerous precedent for advocacy groups to use against the government in the future.

The EEO-1 filing deadline this year is May 31–only 12 weeks away. It is unclear if the EEOC will require employers to submit Part 2 data or set a new schedule for submission. We will be following the issue closely, but it would be prudent to review any processes built for this data collection and review your data for accuracy.

On April 18, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a putative class action against the SLS Hotel South Beach in Miami, Florida (“Hotel”), alleging that the Hotel violated Title VII by firing black Haitian dishwashers who worked in the kitchen and serviced several restaurants in the Hotel – including the Bazaar by Jose Andres, Katsuya and Hyde Beach – and replacing them with white and Hispanic workers, who were supplied by a staffing agency, National Service Group (“NSG”).

This case highlights one of the EEOC’s asserted priorities in its strategic plan for the next six years, to address discrimination in “complex employment relationships” focusing on “temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy.” Here, although a staffing agency made the decision regarding who to hire to replace the terminated employees, the EEOC has stated that an employer may not shield itself from liability for discrimination simply by authorizing an agent to make its hiring or firing decisions, if those decisions are discriminatory.

The Complaint against the Hotel was filed by the EEOC after fifteen former employees lodged charges of discrimination with the EEOC based on their race, color and national origin, and the EEOC issued Letters of Determination after finding reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. The Complaint asserts that black Haitian employees were treated worse than their Hispanic counterparts at the Hotel.  Among the allegations in the Complaint are that black Haitian employees were reprimanded for speaking Creole while Hispanic employees were not reprimanded for speaking Spanish; that black Haitian employees were referred to as “slaves” by other employees, including managers; and Haitian employees were forced to carry heavy items up the stairs, while Hispanic employees were not asked to perform those same tasks.  Further, the Complaint alleges that the Hotel decided to outsource staffing to NSG, but it did not encourage or notify its black Haitian employees to apply for positions with the agency.  Rather, according to the Complaint, black Haitian employees were provided a settlement agreement in English, though many cannot read the language, and were told they would only receive their final paycheck upon signing the agreement.  A press release from the EEOC further contends that the black Haitian workers were replaced “with light-skinned Hispanics.” For its part, the Hotel has spoken out against the allegations, contending that it conducted an investigation as soon as it received notice of the charges and found no evidence of wrongdoing.  Chief Legal Officer for the Hotel, James L. Greeley, stated that the Hotel has been cooperating with the EEOC, engaging in good faith attempts to resolve this matter, and will continue to fully defend the Hotel against false claims.

We recommend our colleagues’ post on the Retail Labor and Employment Law blog: Three Lawsuits Brought by the U.S. EEOC Challenge Employer Separation Agreements, by Lauri F. Rasnick, Susan Gross Sholinsky, Frank C. Morris Jr., and Nancy L. Gunzenhauser.

Following is an excerpt:

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Agency”) has been spending a fair amount of time in recent months challenging the validity and legality of employers’ separation agreements. This is apparently part of the EEOC’s core priorities, including “targeting policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or which impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts.” … A summary of recent lawsuits follows …

Read the full post here and also see their client advisory: The EEOC Is Scrutinizing Separation Agreements: Does Yours Hold Up?

Our colleagues Kara Maciel, Adam Solander, and Lindsay Smith have co-authored a Bloomberg BNA article titled, "Future New Year’s Resolutions: Will Your Wellness Program Still Be There to Help?"

Following is an excerpt:

With the New Year squarely in the rear view mirror, now is the time when many of our grandiose resolutions to get healthy may run out of steam. For individuals who are relying upon their employer’s wellness initiative to provide them with the resources they need to succeed in their resolutions, recent regulatory and legislative changes could jeopardize their ability to rely on their employers in the future.

 I. A New Year Means New Costs

II. Dealing with the 2013 Hangover—Complexities of the Final Rule and Related Regulations

III. Potential Threats to Your Wellness Program

IV. EAPs May Help Keep the Cost of Coverage Lean in 2014

V. Conclusion

Download a PDF of the full article here.