By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Christopher J. DeGroff, Alex W. Karasik, and Sarah K. Bauman

Seyfarth Synopsis:  On March 28, 2022, the EEOC released its fiscal year 2023 budget justification (see here) and fiscal year 2021 performance report (“APR”) (see here).  The APR is a “report card” analysis of the EEOC’s litigation goals and performance results from FY 2021, while the FY 2023 budget outlines how the Commission intends to allocate funds in order to effectuate those goals, in the context of its proposed FY 2023 budget of $464,650,000.

These publications are exceedingly important to employers, as they contain must-read data points for employers in regards to the EEOC’s future strategic objectives and potential targets of heightened enforcement activity.

FY 2021 APR

 In the APR, the EEOC declared that FY 2021 was a successful year for the Commission in terms of advancing its strategic objectives.  In touting its achievements, the EEOC secured more than $485 million in monetary relief for over 15,000 alleged victims of employment discrimination, resolved 138 merit lawsuits, achieved a “favorable result” in 95.7% of all district court resolutions, and secured a reduction of 9.1% in the aged inventory in federal sector appellate cases.

The EEOC often uses this report to undergird its requests for budget increases and to document its achievement. By comparison, the EEOC recovered $535.5 million in FY 2020, $486 million in FY 2019, and $505 million in FY 2018.

The EEOC also continued its goals in community outreach, education, and technical assistance by – despite the challenges of the pandemic – conducting 460 outreach events and reaching 27,495 small business representatives.  Commissioner Burrows, the Chair of the EEOC, remarked that the success of 2021 was made possible “through efforts to rebuild and strengthen the agency,” as it was “fortunate to hire more than 450 predominately front-line positions to begin replacing staff departures in recent years, thereby strengthening our ability to fulfill the agency’s vital role in preventing and remedying employment discrimination.”

FY 2023 Budget Justification

Moving into 2023, the EEOC justifies its $464,650,000 budget request — a whopping $60.160 million increase from last year — based on advancing the strategic priorities for the fiscal year.  Commissioner Burrows indicated that such priorities correlate with the Biden Administration’s call for a “whole-of-government approach to addressing systemic discrimination and advancing equal opportunity.”  Having a “critical role in achieving that agenda,” the EEOC plans to focus on “three broad areas,” including racial justice and systemic discrimination of all protected bases, pay equity, and the civil rights impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Of that $464,650,000, the EEOC requested $31.5 million for state, local, and tribal programs.

Commissioner Burrows further indicated that the proposed budget also will help advance three initiatives launched in 2021, including the Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity (HIRE), which aims to expand employment opportunities as the nation recovers from the pandemic; a joint anti-retaliation initiative with the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board; and an initiative to ensure that employment-related artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making tools comply with federal civil rights laws.

Implications For Employers

FY 2021 was a year of change and recovery at the EEOC as a result of the pandemic and new leadership.  Now that the new leadership regime and their structural changes settled in and adapted to a country that remains impacted by the lingering global pandemic, companies find themselves facing continued uncertainty in the employment landscape.  Given that the EEOC will be equipped with a vastly increased proposed budget, it is more crucial than ever for employers to take heed in regards to the EEOC’s strategic priorities and enforcement agendas.

We will continue to monitor these changes closely and keep readers informed of any further developments as we continue into this new year.