The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of those quiet offices of the Federal government that no one talks about, but is out doing good work every day.
The EEOC is designed to protect workers, using the courts and Federal laws. Why is this important? If you ever need them, you should know that they exist.
If there is sexual harassment in the workplace that the management knows about and isn’t dealing with, the EEOC will step in. They won’t prosecute a sexual harassment case and they don’t sue on behalf of the victim. They sue the company for violating Federal law.
For example, Wal-Mart was recently sued over a case involving a developmentally-disabled women who was sexually harassed in the workplace for six years. Management knew and did nothing. Worse, they fired her when she complained.
The EEOC is suing Wal-Mart to punish them for what is obviously an illegal (and immoral) situation.
What the EEOC enforces
Cases of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and abuse of workers’ rights are all protected by the EEOC. They will investigate a claim, talk to all parties and look for reconciliation. Very often, though, the companies want the case to go to court. Large companies will throw tons of money at a case to make it go away. One look at the EEOC website, you can see they don’t back down.
How it works as an employee
If you have been discriminated against, harassed or abused, you can contact the EEOC and tell them what happened. If they see a violation of law, they will pursue it and contact the employer.
A look at the information on the website and it is clear that they aren’t pursuing single cases, but chronic issues. The Wal-Mart case above was over the course of six years. If you are severely harassed, or worse, in a single incident, that will likely be a case that you would need to purse on your own or through the police.
Where to go
The EEOC is online at http://eeoc.gov. There is an office right here in Boston at the JFK Federal Building. They recommend that you call and get prescreened before going in. 1-800-669-4000
This is a fairly heavy subject, but with many states rewriting employment laws in favor of companies and the shrinking power of workplace unions, it is important to know that there are still resources available to help protect from bad behavior.
By| Bob Peryea
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