Michael Fetzer, the District Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in Dallas, Texas, commented to an audience of Gardere attorneys and clients on December 7, 2007 on the EEOC’s E-RACE initiative. E-RACE means Eradicating Racism and Colorism in Employment. The initiative is aimed at eliminating systemic discrimination in the workplace. Before describing the E-RACE initiative further, Mr. Fetzer reminded the audience that the new initiative did not mean the EEOC was abandoning other issues and types of discrimination.

The E-RACE initiative addresses pervasive discrimination based on race/color. Existing research that Mr. Fetzer cited demonstrates that racial discrimination continues in the workplace. For example, Mr. Fetzer quoted one study that showed employers were significantly more willing to hire Caucasian applicants with a criminal conviction history than African-American applicants with or without the same conviction. He also discussed the Harvard study IMPLICIT showing unacknowledged bias.

As part of this initiative, the EEOC is investigating the use of screening tests, even those that have been validated, to determine if the tests have a disparate impact on race. The EEOC is heavily scrutinizing employers’ use of arrest and conviction records. He further noted that the EEOC is reviewing whether the use of video/computer applications has a disparate impact on certain ethnic groups.

Mr. Fetzer also discussed the need for employers to be proactive in eliminating discrimination. This means more than having a policy. He encouraged employers to hold managers accountable for EEOC issues and recognize those who promote equal opportunity.

With respect to other matters, Mr. Fetzer noted that the EEOC would be conducting more “on-site” investigations. He believes this will increases the number of “cause findings.” He noted that “investigating” through the mail is not effective because investigators look only to see whether the position statement addresses the important issues and provide information. The on-site investigation is more effective, and therefore more will be done.