The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its proposed Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for fiscal years 2023 to 2027. This plan was developed by the agency’s leadership and program offices and with information obtained through public listening sessions. The EEOC invited the public to comment on its draft SEP by Feb. 9, 2023, and it’s currently finalizing the plan based on comments it received. Once finalized, the SEP will establish the EEOC’s enforcement priorities as it works to prevent and remedy discrimination in the workplace.

According to the SEP, the EEOC is prioritizing the following subject matters:

• Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring
• Protecting vulnerable workers and persons in underserved communities from employment discrimination
• Addressing selected emerging and developing issues
• Advancing equal pay for all workers
• Preserving access to the legal system
• Preventing and remedying systemic discrimination

To aid in these enforcement efforts, the agency plans to issue updated employer guidance to help prevent workplace sexual harassment and address the underreporting of sexual harassment. The EEOC plans to do this by focusing on workplaces that historically have experienced above-average levels of sexual harassment and employ vulnerable workers, including restaurants and retail stores. For now, the agency offers Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment, a resource that aids employers in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The draft SEP states the EEOC intends to identify and address discriminatory factors leading to illegal pay disparities by targeting relevant geographic areas and industries. The agency’s plan also addresses the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace to ensure these tools do not discriminate against protected groups.

Employer Takeaways

The EEOC is currently reviewing the public comments and incorporating them into the final SEP. The finalized plan will be subject to approval by the EEOC, and, once approved, it will be published. This document will guide the agency’s enforcement priorities for the next five years.

While the final SEP may differ from the current version, the draft plan reveals the EEOC’s intentions and priorities. Therefore, employers should consider reviewing the draft plan to determine how it may impact their organizations. Impacted employers will want to follow this process closely because the agency will likely start addressing its enforcement priorities once the plan is published.