End of the Year News from the EEOC

Friday, December 30, 2016

The EEOC closed out 2016 with several reports that provide interesting reading for employers heading into the new year.

The first is the EEOC’s annual performance report, which provides a snapshot of how the EEOC views its accomplishments over the last year. These accomplishments, according to the EEOC, include measured gains in three areas of its strategic plan, including strategic law enforcement where the agency claims it secured $347.9 for employees in the private sector through mediation, conciliation, or settlements, and another $52.2 million through agency litigation. Although the report shows the agency well in stride of its goals, it remains to be seen how the incoming administration will affect the EEOC’s agenda.

The second report from the EEOC is its updated enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination, which was last revised in 2002. In announcing the new guidance, the EEOC noted that, in fiscal year 2015, approximately 11 percent of the private sector charges filed with the agency alleged national origin discrimination. As with the old guidance, the new guidance provides information on prohibited employment practices as well as “promising practices” that may minimize the risk of national origin discrimination claims.

Finally, the EEOC issued a resource document that provides information on the rights of job applicants and employees with mental health conditions. Again, in announcing the resource document, the EEOC noted that discrimination claims based on mental health conditions are on the rise and that, in 2016, it resolved almost 5,000 charges based on such conditions. Although the user-friendly resource document is undoubtedly geared toward employees, employers may nonetheless find the information helpful as a reminder of the tricky issues they must navigate in this area of disability discrimination law.

Some Thoughts for Maine Employers on Marijuana Legalization

Thursday, December 8, 2016

[The following comments were originally delivered at a breakfast briefing on December 7 in Portland sponsored by Clark Insurance and KMA Human Resources Consulting.]

If we assume that the Question 1 referendum recount does not change the outcome, Maine’s 128th Legislature will begin the process of hammering out a new statutory regime to accompany legalization in 2017.

At the present time, no one can reasonably predict how the post-referendum statute is going to read and whether it is going to provide clear guidance so Maine employers can navigate risk management issues and adequately address legal compliance questions.

It’s a trap to think that here in Maine we can look at how things are being handled in Colorado, for example, and use employers’ experiences there for determining how best to proceed.