Protecting Employment Rights Across the Country

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the nation’s primary employment rights enforcement agency.

The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. We also work to prevent discrimination before it occurs, through outreach, education, and technical assistance. The EEOC also provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies regarding equal employment opportunity programs.

The EEOC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has 53 field locations across the country. We are very lucky to have many enthusiastic EEOC employees in our field offices participating in the White House Initiative on AAPIs’  Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG). 

Over the past year, the EEOC worked to improve federal access and advancement for the AAPI community. Below are several highlights:

Language Access

  • For the first time, we generated quarterly reports on whether interpretation services (including those in AAPI languages) were requested or utilized by parties during our mediation program. We also completed an assessment of language capacity and needs for district offices.
  • We participated in 240 events geared at AAPI communities, reaching more than 11,700 individuals, which included distributing brochures in Chinese and Vietnamese in Indianapolis; reaching out to the Cambodian community in Lowell, MA; conducting a bilingual workshop in Chuukese to Micronesian residents; distributing information in Chinese and Korean in Mobile, AL; conducting a workshop to Hmong community members and advocates in Fresno, CA; and attending a town hall meeting with the Burmese community in Indianapolis.  

Data Collection and Dissemination

  • We updated our EEO-5 survey, which collects labor force data on public elementary and secondary school districts, to make it consistent with OMB’s 1997 Revision to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. The EEO-5 survey now requires public elementary and secondary school districts to allow an employee to self-identify more than one race, thereby permitting individuals who are Asian and Pacific Islander to identify both of those races.
  • Due largely to five new national origin categories added in FY2012, last year we were able to reduce the number of “Other Asian National Origin” entries by 13%.

Workforce Diversity

  • We published an online practical guide to common issues faced by AAPIs in the federal workforce in an effort to assist other federal government agencies.
  • We participated in the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) Challenge Team Program, a project-oriented, experiential training-based program that develops skills for emerging Federal employee leaders, especially those at the GS-9 to GS-14 levels.
  • We now include Diversity as a critical performance element in performance plans for all EEOC SES (Senior Executive Service), managers, and supervisors.

Building upon these accomplishments, we are excited to present our agency plan for Fiscal Years 2014-15. The EEOC’s 2014-15 Agency Plan includes goals in the categories of language access, data, and workforce diversity. So far this year, we have already taken steps to achieve these goals, including:

  • Beginning to update our AAPI Fact Sheets, which we plan to post on our website and disseminate to federal government affinity groups, community-based organizations, and Fair Employment Practices Agencies (our state-level partners) by May 1.
  • Beginning to develop a process for forming formal partnerships with AANAPISI’s (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions).
  • Beginning to develop plans with the Regional Interagency Working Group to schedule AAPI outreach events.

We are pleased to announce that just this month, the EEOC issued two technical assistance documents that may be important to the AAPI community. These documents, a Question and Answer and a Fact Sheet, address workplace rights and responsibilities on religious dress (e.g., a Muslim hijab, a Sikh turban, or a Christian cross) and grooming (e.g., Sikh uncut hair and beard, Rastafarian dreadlocks, or Jewish peyes), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  A broad overview of workplace religious accommodation issues can also be found in the “What You Should Know” section of our website. 

We also encourage you to submit your feedback on EEOC’s agency plan by March 31, 2014.

Jenny Yang is a Commissioner at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the agency’s Interagency Working Group designee to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

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