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The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a new initiative aimed at increasing enforcement through information sharing, joint investigation, training and outreach. This initiative is expected to increase exposure for employers because a single action filed with the EEOC may now draw additional scrutiny from the WHD, and vice versa.

Historically, if the EEOC was confronted with wage and hour violations during an investigation into alleged discrimination, the EEOC had no formal mechanism in place to coordinate with the WHD. As a result, the EEOC would typically complete its investigation into the alleged discrimination and the wage and hour violations could die on the vine unless a separate action was filed by the WHD.

Similarly, if the WHD discovered potential discrimination in violation of Title VII during the course of an investigation into violations of federal wage and hour laws, there was no mechanism in place for the WHD to coordinate with the EEOC. Accordingly, the alleged Title VII violations could languish unless a separate action was filed with the EEOC.

This new partnership, encapsulated in the agencies’ recently executed Memorandum of Understanding, outlines the collaborative efforts that will be used to enforce their respective laws and discover additional violations.

Consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding, the agencies will combine their efforts to increase the likelihood that violations of federal anti-discrimination and wage laws are discovered during agency investigations by:

  • Training all staff about issues that may arise under the other’s jurisdiction;
  • Advising complainants that they may file a charge or complaint with the other agency;
  • Providing complainants with supplemental informational materials from the other agency;
  • Conducting coordinated investigations; and
  • Engaging in joint outreach and public education.

The EEOC will continue to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws, including, but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) among others. Likewise, the Wage and Hour Division will continue to enforce federal minimum wage as well as overtime, child labor, and tip retention laws, among others.

However, in light of the cross-training of the EEOC and WHD investigators, information sharing, and joint investigations, employers should be prepared for more expansive investigations and an increase in enforcement actions. If you have questions about compliance with federal anti-discrimination or wage and hour laws, contact Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney for assistance.