The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to prevent and address workplace harassment in state and local government. The EEOC and the Justice Department seek to enhance the effectiveness of the nation’s equal employment opportunity enforcement in the state and local government sector to ensure the efficient use of resources and a consistent enforcement strategy. The EEOC has ramped up its role as enforcer, educator, and leader on harassment in the workplace, and this MOU enhances those efforts.
EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic and Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband signed the MOU on Dec. 21 in Washington, D.C.
“All Americans are entitled to work with dignity in a place that is free of unlawful and discriminatory harassment,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Last February, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division launched an initiative to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. We are also diligently working to prosecute cases of racial and other forms of illegal discrimination. Through our strong partnership with the EEOC, we will continue to identify harassment claims, prosecute lawbreakers, seek relief for victims, and fight to eliminate harassment from the workplace.”
“I am pleased to be able to renew our work with the Department of Justice in this regard,” said Acting Chair Lipnic. “Harassment at work can have a devastating impact on people. The employees in the public sector deserve as much of our attention on this issue as those in the private sector.” Lipnic added, “I especially want to thank EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows for her attention to issues in this sector. I look forward to using her years of experience at the Department of Justice to help us move forward with our important work.”
EEOC Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows stated, “Anyone who suffers workplace harassment deserves prompt relief. I commend Acting Chair Lipnic and Assistant Attorney General Dreiband for their leadership in taking this important step to enhance the federal response in harassment investigations.”
The EEOC and the Department of Justice share enforcement authority for employment discrimination claims involving state and local government employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC receives, investigates, and mediates charges of discrimination against such 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 the Justice Department, which has sole authority within the federal government to file a lawsuit against state and local governments under Title VII.
The agencies’ shared concern over the need for immediate action to prevent further harm in some harassment cases, including sexual harassment, led the EEOC and the Justice Department to amend the MOU. It now includes provisions for the expedited coordination of any charge involving state or local government employers where the EEOC’s preliminary investigation of a charge reveals that immediate action is needed to prevent further harm. In those cases, the EEOC will provide the Justice Department with the information necessary to obtain an injunction, temporary or preliminary relief, in federal court for the affected employees, pending the final outcome of the charge.