U.S. EEOC and Department of Justice Develop Cooperation Agreement

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to improve those agencies’ efforts to prevent and address charges of discrimination by state and local government employers under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The MOU sets forth protocols for the agencies to share information and cooperate to investigate such charges and litigate where it is determined that probable cause exists to believe unlawful discrimination has occurred.

Among the topics addressed in the MOU is the procedure in cases where the EEOC concludes, after a preliminary investigation of a charge of discrimination, that temporary or preliminary relief is “necessary to carry out the purposes of Title VII.” In particular, the MOU states that in cases where a state or local government employee alleges, he or she is suffering workplace harassment in violation of Title VII, including sexual harassment, the DOJ may apply to a court for immediate relief pending final disposition of a charge. In such cases, even though no lawsuit has been filed, the employer may have to defend against a request for temporary or preliminary relief in court. Before the MOU was in place, the DOJ wasn’t obligated to cooperate with the EEOC when the EEOC recommended applying for temporary or preliminary relief. Now, the MOU commits the DOJ to cooperating with such an application where the EEOC recommends it and promptly determining whether to seek temporary or preliminary relief, such as an injunction or temporary restraining order. 

The MOU is another demonstration of the enhanced commitment by state and federal agencies to address concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace. Coupled with the recent New York State legislation requiring employers to adopt a comprehensive sexual harassment prevention policy and train all employees in such prevention efforts by October of 2019, employers face ever-heightened scrutiny of their efforts to address sexual harassment.

Please contact any of the attorneys below from our labor and employment practice group if you have any questions regarding policies or training on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Richard J. Andino
S. Alexander Berlucchi
Melinda B. Bowe
John R. Langey
Christopher M. Militello
Michael A. Tremont

 

This communication is not intended to serve as legal advice.
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