Walberg Statement: Hearing on H.R. 548, "Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2015"; H.R. 549, "Litigation Oversight Act of 2015"; H.R. 550, "EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act"; and H.R. 1189, "Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act"
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 24, 2015
Today, the subcommittee will examine a number of legislative proposals intended to provide greater transparency and accountability to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us. We have a distinguished panel to help us look at a number of complex and important issues.
All workers deserve strong protections against employment discrimination. Toward that end, there continues to be support for federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and others. There is no doubt that every member of the committee expects the fair and vigorous enforcement of these laws in our nation’s workplaces, and that is precisely why we are here today.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plays a vital role ensuring America’s workers are free to pursue employment without fear of discrimination based on their race, gender, disability, or religion. We need this agency to do its job effectively so that every American has a shot to succeed based on merit and hard work. Unfortunately, the enforcement and regulatory approach adopted by EEOC in recent years raises serious doubts about whether our nation’s best interests are being served.
For example, the commission has implemented controversial guidance on the use of criminal background checks that will make it more difficult for employers to protect their employees and customers. At a hearing held last Congress, the subcommittee received testimony from Ms. Lucia Bone, whose sister, Sue Weaver, was murdered by a man who months earlier had cleaned the air ducts in her home. A simple criminal background check might have saved this innocent woman’s life.
State and local policies requiring criminal background checks are intended to protect Americans who come in contact with workers in vulnerable situations, such as at home and in the classroom. As a result of EEOC’s misguided policy, more Americans will be put in harm’s way, including women and children. The EEOC should scrap this misguided policy completely, but if it won’t, then Congress should take steps to rein it in and help provide families greater peace of mind the next time they invite a stranger into their home or child’s classroom.
Furthermore, EEOC has challenged employee wellness programs. Employers develop these innovative programs in order to improve the health of employees and their families, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs. Yet litigation pursued by the commission is actually discouraging employers from implementing these programs, even though Congress on a bipartisan basis has expressed its clear support for employee wellness programs.
Lastly, EEOC is spending more time and resources pursuing systemic or “class action” investigations, often without any allegation of wrongdoing. The commission has also been sanctioned in recent years for pursuing claims that are frivolous and without merit. This is how one federal circuit court described an EEOC enforcement action:
“EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself.”
Meanwhile, a backlog of discrimination claims filed by individual workers continues to plague the commission. This is no way to run an agency with a mission as important as the EEOC’s and we must demand better. To help workers succeed in the workplace without fear of discrimination, Congress has a responsibility to hold the commission accountable for its regulatory and enforcement policies.
We will examine today a number of legislative proposals to help us do just that. Together, these proposals will instill greater transparency and accountability in EEOC, improve its enforcement activities, and help more workers and employers enjoy the benefits of employee wellness programs. I look forward to discussing in greater detail with our witnesses the positive reforms in these bills and hope they will receive strong, bipartisan support.
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