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Biden approves repeal of EEOC conciliation rule

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The seal of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Rule would have required EEOC to provide more information to employers about discrimination complaints
  • Democrats said the rule would delay cases and increase the risk of retaliation against workers

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(Reuters) - President Joe Biden has signed a joint resolution passed by Congress to repeal a Trump-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule that would have overhauled the agency's pre-litigation settlement process.

Biden, a Democrat, signed the resolution late Wednesday after the Democrat-led House of Representatives narrowly passed it last week. The Senate approved the measure in May.

The January rule would have required the EEOC to provide information to employers upon initiating the settlement, or "conciliation," process, including a summary of the facts of a case, the identities of witnesses and alleged victims, and the legal basis for a finding that discrimination has occurred.

The Republican-led commission said the changes would encourage settlements by allowing employers to weigh the merits of bias complaints early on in the process.

But many Democrats and worker advocates said it would divert the EEOC's limited resources away from combating discrimination and delay cases, including by creating a new avenue for time-consuming appeals.

In a statement issued last month, the White House criticized the rule's "onerous and rigid new procedures," and said it would increase the risk of retaliation against workers who file complaints or participate in discrimination investigations.

Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia and the chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said repealing the rule was a significant step toward restoring access to justice for victims of workplace discrimination.

"The resolution allows the EEOC to fulfill its responsibility to use whatever informal means of settlement are appropriate for each case," Scott said in a statement on Wednesday.

The resolution was criticized by many Republicans and business groups, who said the rule had been long overdue after the conciliation process had proved ineffective for decades.

During floor debate in the House last week, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said repealing the rule "encourages the EEOC to pursue needless, combative and expensive litigation, and turns the EEOC back into a politically driven runaway bureaucracy."

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.

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