Employers Beware: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor Agree to Collaborate to Maximize Enforcement of Laws | Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP

Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) entered into a memorandum of understanding “to maximize and improve the enforcement of” the laws administered by the two agencies.  The purpose of the MOU is to foster better collaboration between the agencies through “information sharing, joint investigations, training, and outreach.”

Taking immediate effect, the organizations have agreed to broader information and data sharing between each other.  Notably, either organization “may share, whether upon request from the other agency or upon an agency’s own initiative, any information or data that supports the other agency’s enforcement activities, whether obtained in the course of an investigation or through any other sources, to the extent permitted by law.”  To facilitate broader sharing of information and data between the organizations, several individuals in each organization can make a request for information from one of several individuals in the other organization. 

The MOU also provides guidelines for the organizations to conduct coordinated investigations.  The MOU encourages the organizations to provide training to each other’s staff to educate them on the other organization’s jurisdiction.  Based on the MOU, the sought after result of this training is to provide each organization with the knowledge necessary to inform a complainant when the organization believes the complainant may also have grounds to file a complaint with the other agency.

The collaboration presents broad implications for employers, considering the purpose of each organization. The EEOC’s purpose is to enforce equal employment opportunity laws, including the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The WHD’s purpose is to enforce a number of statutes pertaining to wage and hour issues, most notably the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Typically, the first step for employees who believe their employers have violated a statute is to file a complaint with the enforcing agency.  With the new collaboration, the potential now exists that a complaint filed with one organization will ultimately result in a review of an employer’s practices by both organizations.  As such, employers are encouraged to review their policies to ensure they are compliant with applicable statutes, particularly the FLSA, Title VII, and the ADA.

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