The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that receives, investigates and resolves charges of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal statutes. The agency also issues notices that employees and prospective employees must have to file federal lawsuits alleging Title VII discrimination. These notices give plaintiffs the right to sue for monetary compensation or other available remedies such as reinstatement to a job or promotion.
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of race, religion, national origin, color, and sex. It bans such discrimination in all areas of employment including recruiting, hiring, firing, promoting and compensating. Title VII applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. Under Title VII, harassment, including quid pro quo sexual harassment, discrimination, and practices that have a disparate impact may all be unlawful.
To many, the fact that the EEOC does not have to wait for an employee to file a charge before investigating employment discrimination, comes as a surprise. However, the EEOC has the authority to initiate investigations into industries and businesses with “systemic bias in order to develop and initiate charges against employers who engage in a pattern or practice of discrimination.”
In 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested that the EEOC do exactly that, and the Commission began examining the issue of gender discrimination against women in the television and movie industries. In a lengthy and detailed letter to the Los Angeles office of the EEOC, the ACLU specifically asked that the office “initiate an investigation into the systemic failure to hire women directors in violation of Title VII at all levels of the film and television industry.”
The ACLU relied on statistics and detailed interviews with over 50 female directors to conclude that women are grossly underrepresented in the industry because of:
For the full ACLU letter: https://www.aclusocal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/EEOC-FINAL-LETTER-05-11-2015.pdf
The Los Angeles Times reports that the EEOC has started expanding its investigation into the issues of systemic bias and discrimination facing women directors. A May 2016 article states that the EEOC was “widening its circle of interview subjects.” The expanded investigation is said to include interviews with producers, actors, studio executives, agents, and male directors. The EEOC, however, has never publicly confirmed the investigation.
As the EEOC investigates the discriminatory practices of the movie and television industries, it will be interesting to see if an individual female director comes forward and files a charge with the agency against a particular employer. Retaliation is clearly unlawful under Title VII, but some directors expressed concern over being punished for their activism and outward attempts to address discriminatory hiring and unequal pay practices.
The EEOC may conclude that no unlawful gender discrimination exists. Perhaps the findings will uncover a pattern of Title VII violation and lead to lawsuits, attempts at mediation or significant industry-wide changes. Time will tell what the investigation reveals.
If you have experienced gender discrimination in New York and are interested in filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights and/or the New York City Commission on Human Rights it may help to speak with the attorneys at Leeds Brown. Our firm dedicates itself to ensuring that all employees receive equal treatment under the law.
If you have lost a job opportunity or an employment benefit because of your gender, race or religion or been forced to tolerate harassment, you may have a claim against your employer. Call lawyers at Leeds Brown, representing the interests of employees across the New York City metropolitan area, to find out what rights you may have to recover monetary damages, reinstatement or other remedies.
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