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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Headquarters: 131 M St. NE
Washington, DC 20507

Phone: 202-663-4900
Employees: 2,100
Chair: Jacqueline Berrien

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law. The commission can help settle the charges or file a lawsuit if necessary to protect the rights of individuals or the public interest.

The commission also works to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs.

The EEOC provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies on all aspects of the federal government's equal employment opportunity program. EEOC assures federal agency and department compliance with EEOC regulations, provides technical assistance to federal agencies concerning EEO complaint adjudication, monitors and evaluates federal agencies' affirmative employment programs, develops and distributes federal sector educational materials and conducts training for stakeholders, provides guidance and assistance to our Administrative Judges who conduct hearings on EEO complaints, and adjudicates appeals from administrative decisions made by federal agencies on EEO complaints.

The headquarters for the EEOC are in Washington, D.C. and has 53 field offices nationwide.


The EEOC was created in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act was an omnibus bill addressing not only discrimination in employment, but also discrimination in voting, public accommodations, and education as well. The law was forged in an atmosphere of urgency. There was growing unrest in the country emanating from the pervasive and egregious racial discrimination and segregation exposed during the civil rights protests in the 1960s.

The EEOC officially began on July 2, 1965. A small staff of about 100, detailed mostly from other federal agencies, was confronted on opening day with an instant backlog of nearly 1,000 complaints, called "charges" in the parlance of the new law. Most of the charges had been forwarded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund, which had worked with a coalition of civil rights groups for passage of the new law. New charges of employment discrimination filed with EEOC mounted rapidly.

Although it had been estimated that 2,000 charges of discrimination would be filed in the first year, 8,852 charges were filed.

Updated September 21, 2010