Racial injustices have sparked outrage in recent years. Organizations nationwide are speaking up and acting against inequality, following highly publicized killings of unarmed Black people, an increase in anti-immigration rhetoric and many years of systemic racism.
The federal government is no exception.
On April 15, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) revealed its equity action plan, focused on combating systemic racial discrimination, advancing equity in the agency’s activities, and improving outreach and access to underrepresented communities.
The plan aims to accomplish these goals by:
- Improving worker access to the EEOC’s charge filing process so that individuals in rural areas, with inflexible schedules or with limited digital resources can more easily use the agency’s services.
- Engaging with more employers and researchers as well as worker and civil rights organizations to support diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
- Further developing the EEOC’s data collection and analysis to support effective enforcement and to empower individuals to exercise their civil rights.
- Continuing to improve access to EEOC’s resources for people whose primary language is not English as well as those who have limited digital or reading proficiency.
“In the coming months, the EEOC will host a listening session to receive feedback on EEOC’s equity action plan,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said. “We look forward to hearing your thoughts as we advance equity in the nation’s workplaces.”
Since 2021, the EEOC has hosted meetings and provided resources to educate the public on racial inequality in the workplace. For example, the agency held a virtual hearing on workplace civil rights issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2021.
The following month, the EEOC posted an English and Spanish version of a “Know Your Rights” resource explaining how federal EEO laws protect workers during the pandemic. And in November 2021, the agency collaborated with the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board to address more effectively the significant problem of unlawful retaliation, a form of discrimination that largely targets people of color.
Advancing Equity and Racial Justice
The EEOC’s equity action plan comes in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”
Signed by Biden in January 2021, E.O. 13985 requires the head of each federal agency to produce a plan for addressing any barriers that limit full and equal participation for underserved communities or individuals seeking to:
- Enroll or access federal benefits, services or programs.
- Take advantage of agency procurement and contracting opportunities.
On April 14, more than 90 federal agencies, including all Cabinet-level agencies, released their equity action plans. Each outlines strategies and commitments to address the systemic barriers in policies and programs that limit prosperity, dignity and equality among underserved communities.
These approaches also include incorporating life experience to reimagine federal service design and delivery, engaging with stakeholders and communities who have been historically excluded, delivering equity through grantmaking, and more.
SHRM’s DE&I Efforts
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has emphasized the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) through several initiatives aimed to raise awareness for underrepresented communities.
In 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, SHRM launched Together Forward @Work—a call to action to drive racial inequity out of America’s workplaces. The initiative offers tools and information to help HR professionals, people managers, executives and emerging professionals increase inclusion by having difficult but necessary conversations with co-workers and employees.
In 2021, the SHRM Foundation revealed its “Getting Talent Back to Work” initiative, which helps to reduce barriers to employment for people with criminal records. The program equips employers with the resources, tools and case studies needed to attract, hire and retain these workers, many of whom are people of color.