Last week, we reported on a new joint enforcement initiative between the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Federal Trade Commission. On the heels of this announcement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and DOL entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at improving the enforcement of federal employment laws. This collaboration marks an important development for businesses and employers.
The MOU in Context: Before the MOU, the EEOC and DOL operated largely independently, with minimal interaction during investigations. The MOU signifies a shift, however, toward increased cooperation and coordination between the agencies.
Below are three key considerations for employers.
- Information Sharing: Both agencies will now share information about complaints, investigations, and enforcement actions. This means that the EEOC and DOL will have a more comprehensive view of potential employment law violations by employers. The agencies will also train each other on how to spot potential violations, which would allow a wider net to be cast when looking for violations.
- Joint Investigations: In certain cases, the EEOC and DOL will collaborate on investigations. This means that employers facing allegations of discrimination or wage and hour violations may undergo concurrent scrutiny by both agencies.
- Coordination of Referrals: If one agency identifies conduct that falls under the purview of the other, that agency will inform the complainant and suggest they file a charge or complaint with the relevant agency.
In response to this development, employers should work closely with their legal counsel when dealing with a DOL complaint or EEOC charge of discrimination. While federal agencies have always had the opportunity to work together, the MOU formalizes the EEOC and DOL relationship. Businesses should carefully consider how they respond to any request for information with an eye on both of these investigative bodies.
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