The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division yesterday signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to further the goals of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in prohibiting employment discrimination in the state and local government sector. The signing ceremony took place on Monday, March 2, at DOJ’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and included remarks from Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division and EEOC Chair Jenny Yang.
EEOC and DOJ share enforcement authority for public sector employers under Title VII. The EEOC receives, investigates and mediates charges of discrimination against public employers. Where the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe an unlawful employment practice has occurred, the agency works with the employer to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution to the charge. If conciliation of a charge fails, the EEOC refers the charge and its investigative file to DOJ, which has sole authority within the federal government to file a lawsuit against public employers under Title VII.
The MOU includes provisions for the coordination of the investigation of charges of discrimination on the basis of any characteristic protected by Title VII, while respecting the distinct responsibilities and enforcement priorities of each agency. Further, the MOU includes provisions for sharing information, as appropriate and to the extent allowable under law.
This MOU codifies a pilot project launched in 2009 by DOJ and EEOC. The pilot, which began with four of EEOC’s district offices, has been expanded over the years and now includes the Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco District Offices, as well as the Washington, D.C. Field Office, among others. Over the years, the pilot has served to enhance the effectiveness of the nation’s equal employment opportunity enforcement program in the public sector, ensuring the efficient use of resources and a consistent enforcement strategy.
“The MOU brings to life our vision to approach our shared Title VII enforcement responsibilities as a partnership,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “It institutionalizes that partnership and provides a concrete framework for expanding our collaborations and increasing our effectiveness in protecting the employment rights of public sector workers.”
“Our state and local governments provide essential services that affect all of us every day in every part of our lives,” said EEOC Chair Yang. “One of the greatest tools that our public institutions have for inspiring trust and credibility in our communities is to ensure that all public employees enjoy equal opportunity at work. That is the significance of the MOU we sign today.”
There have been several successful examples of the existing partnership between EEOC and DOJ, including the settlement of Murphy-Taylor v. State of Maryland, et al., a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit involving the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff, in which the United States intervened; the settlement with the Board of Education, Berkeley School District 87, Cook County, Illinois, over religious accommodation discrimination; and a settlement with Clark County, Nevada, for wage discrimination and retaliation against an African-American female manager resulting in $179,000 in monetary relief.
The MOU is just one example of the enforcement partnership between the EEOC and DOJ. The agencies collaborate on several interagency taskforces and working groups, including the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, the National Equal Pay Enforcement Taskforce, the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative, the Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, the Interagency Working Group for the Consistent Enforcement of Federal Labor, Employment and Immigration Laws, and most recently an interagency working group on police force diversity.
The MOU and information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division’s website or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website.