On November 5, 2020, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued a final rule defining the evidentiary standards it will use for proving discrimination claims by federal contractors, revising the process for notifying contractors of potential violations, and outlining an option for contractors to participate in an “expedited” dispute resolution process. It will take effect on December 10, 2020. Notably, the rule deviates significantly from the version initially proposed by OFCCP on December 30, 2019, which relied far more heavily on statistics and came under intense scrutiny from the contractor community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to OFCCP, the requirements laid out in the final rule will increase transparency and create clear parameters for contractor compliance with equal employment opportunity laws. READ MORE
Erin’s practice covers all aspects of employment law, as well as complex business litigation outside the employment context. Erin has defended numerous class actions, EEOC systemic discrimination investigations, and complex individual cases involving claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage-and-hour claims. Erin has particular expertise in the area of pay equity, compensation analyses, and diversity initiatives; and regularly advises clients with respect to OFCCP and other EEO audits.
Erin also is an accomplished trial lawyer. She has tried several cases before juries and in arbitration, and has obtained numerous defense summary judgment rulings and other favorable resolutions in state and federal court. Erin led the trial team that obtained a complete dismissal for Oracle in OFCCP v. Oracle, a high-stakes systemic compensation discrimination case that garnered national media attention and earned Erin and her team recognition as "Litigators of the Week" by the American Lawyer.
Erin's clients include leading technology and Fortune 500 companies, including: Oracle, Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, Pinterest, NVIDIA, NetApp, Splunk, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Seagate Technology.
Erin is currently the management chair of the ABA Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, and frequently speaks on California and national employment law issues. She has published numerous articles on employment law in publications around the country, including the ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law. She also provides training on managing within the law and preventing sexual harassment, and conducts internal investigations on employment-related matters.
Posts by: Erin Connell
On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newson signed SB 973, making California the first state to require employers to submit employee pay data by race and gender. As we previously reported, SB 973 is modeled after the now discontinued federal EEO-1 pay data collection form, which was harshly criticized for its heavy burden on employers and lack of utility in assessing for pay equity or pay discrimination (see prior Equal Pay Pulse blogs here, here, here, and here).
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and a nationwide push towards greater equality, transparency and accountability, the California legislature this week passed a bill (SB 973) that would establish at the state level the equivalent of the EEOC’s discontinued EEO-1 pay data collection form. If signed by Governor Newsom, SB 973 would require that starting March 31, 2021 every California employer with 100 or more employees who files a federal EEO-1 report must annually submit a pay data report to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) that discloses: (1) the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex in each of ten broad job categories, and (2) the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex whose annual earnings (defined as W-2 income) fall within each of the pay bands used by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. Employers with multiple establishments must submit a consolidated report, as well as a report for each establishment. READ MORE
On July 16, the EEOC announced plans to fund an independent study to evaluate pay data submitted by employers for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 through Component 2 of the EEO-1 form, both to inform potential next steps for the data, as well as to guide any potential future collections. As we reported last March, after a tumultuous history, the EEOC decided against renewing its request for authorization to continue collecting pay data under Component 2 of the EEO-1 form, which reflected employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, broken down by gender, ethnicity, and race. The EEOC’s decision in March ended a four-year saga – including litigation – over whether the pay data collection would go forward at all. Much of the controversy stemmed from critiques that the burden and confidentiality concerns implicated by the Component 2 submissions outweighed any potential benefit, particularly given the form’s reliance on W-2 earnings (as opposed to base pay or total compensation awarded for work performed in a given year), combined with the breadth of the pay bands and job categories used, as well as the inability for most employers to accurately track or report hours worked by exempt employees (as we reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Despite last March’s announcement, the EEOC has not stated whether or how it plans to use the data it already has collected. READ MORE
Today, the EEOC formally confirmed that it will not renew its request for authorization to collect employer’s pay data under Component 2 of the EEO-1 moving forward. The notice is consistent with its announcement last September, marking the end of a four-year saga over whether the pay data collection would go ahead (as we reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Notably, the notice does not explain how the EEOC intends to use the pay data it already has collected, although it makes reference to using it in Title VII proceedings. It does, however, confirm the EEOC’s intentions regarding sharing the EEO-1 pay data, including that the EEOC does not intend to share it with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), but under certain circumstances may share it with state and local fair employment practices agencies (“FEPAs”). The notice also provides guidance regarding a potential pay data collection by the EEOC in the future, including that the EEOC intends to “develop a plan for using pay data before initiating any data collection.” READ MORE
In yet another development in the closely watched case of Rizo v. Yovino, the en banc Ninth Circuit ruled that employers may not defeat a plaintiff’s prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) by arguing prior pay is a “factor other than sex” within the meaning of the statute. By doing so, the Ninth Circuit reaches the same result as the previous opinion penned by the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt before his passing in 2018, including overruling Kouba v. Allstate, a prior Ninth Circuit opinion that held that prior pay could justify pay differentials in combination with other factors, and if relied upon reasonably and to effectuate a business policy. The majority opinion further holds that as a matter of statutory interpretation, a “factor other than sex” within the meaning of the EPA must be “job related,” yet it also makes clear that the EPA does not prohibit employers from considering prior pay in making starting pay offers (and in this regard differentiates the opinion from California’s salary history ban). Two separate concurring opinions agree with the result, but they criticize the majority opinion for giving too narrow a reading of the EPA’s fourth “catch all” defense and for embracing a view of prior pay that puts the Ninth Circuit at odds with other circuits and guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). READ MORE
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the EEOC may not discontinue its pay data collection efforts on November 11, 2019, but rather, must continue its collection efforts until it has collected from at least 98.3% of eligible reporters and must make all efforts to do so by January 31, 2020. The ruling is the latest in a lengthy saga regarding whether EEO-1 Component 2 pay data (data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, and broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex) would be collected—a saga that began with the Office of Management and Budget staying collection efforts, and culminated last Spring when Judge Chutkan ruled the decision to stay the collection lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act (see overview here). After vacating the stay, Judge Chutkan initially set the deadline for data collection for May 31, 2019, but later extended it to September 30, 2019. READ MORE
Yesterday, the EEOC announced that it does not intend to renew its request for authorization to collect employers’ pay data on the EEO-1 form in future years. The announcement comes less than three weeks before the September 30th deadline for employers nationwide to submit massive amounts of pay data for 2017 and 2018 (a deadline that is not impacted by the EEOC’s announcement).
The rollercoaster saga of the EEOC’s pay data collection (which we previously reported on including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) began over three-and-a-half years ago when the EEOC announced in January 2016 its plan to revise the EEO-1 form to collect pay data (Component 2 data). The revised EEO-1 form requires employers to submit data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, and broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex. While the EEOC contends that the revised EEO-1 form will allow it to better assess pay discrimination, employers have expressed numerous concerns, including that the form may indicate “false positives,” as the broad EEO-1 job categories are not designed to group employees who perform similar work (as defined by federal and state equal pay and anti-discrimination statutes). READ MORE
The EEOC has been no stranger to headlines in recent months, particularly on the issue of equal pay. As we recently reported, the EEOC’s long-dormant pay data collection rule, revived by the D.C. District Court in March, has caused an uproar of speculation as employers race to comply with increased data reporting requirements for their annual EEO-1 forms by September 30, 2019. But the EEOC is also busy addressing pay issues in court.
The EEOC has been ordered to collect employers’ EEO-1 Component 2 pay data by September 30, 2019. The D.C. District Court issued the order after finding back in March 2019 that Office of Management and Budget (OMB’s) decision to stay the collection of Component 2 pay data lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act. See our prior blog posts here, here, and here about National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget, No. 17-cv-2458 (TSC) (D.D.C.). Since then the court has been critical of the EEOC’s compliance with its order, and held a status conference and a hearing in March and April. READ MORE