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EEOC launches initiative for underserved communities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has launched a new initiative to support workers from underserved communities who often do not seek the agency’s assistance when needed.

Called the REACH initiative —“Enhancing OutREACH to Vulnerable Workers and Underserved Communities”— the new, multi-year effort led by EEOC Commissioner Kalpana Kotagal focuses on ensuring EEOC’s outreach and education efforts are effectively reaching vulnerable, hard-to-access workers when they are in need.

The REACH initiative will:

  • Hold in-person and virtual listening sessions with a broad range of stakeholders around the country to examine how the EEOC can bolster its efforts to reach vulnerable and underserved communities.
  • Review and evaluate existing research and recommendations on effective outreach strategies, tools, and methods to inform the work of the initiative.
  • Identify best practices for reaching vulnerable and underserved communities and consider how to develop an increased presence in rural areas and areas far from physical EEOC office locations.
  • Develop recommendations to present to the EEOC Chair for enhancing outreach efforts.

“As the daughter of immigrants, I know what is possible in this great country, and that it is due in no small part to our nation’s deep commitment to equal opportunity,” Kotagal said. “By ensuring that the Commission is accessible to vulnerable and underserved communities, we can advance fair and inclusive workplaces and achieve systemic change. I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear directly from local stakeholders across the country about how the agency can enhance its outreach efforts and make the promise of equal opportunity a reality for all.”

The REACH initiative advances the EEOC’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026, which includes an objective to ensure that “[m]embers of the public are aware of employment discrimination laws and know their rights and responsibilities under these laws.”

Also, it furthers the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2028 (SEP), which prioritizes protecting vulnerable workers from employment discrimination.

The plan identifies vulnerable workers as: immigrant and migrant workers and workers on temporary visas; people with developmental or intellectual disabilities; workers with mental health related disabilities; individuals with arrest or conviction records; LGBTQI+ individuals; temporary workers; older workers; individuals employed in low wage jobs, including teenage workers employed in such jobs; survivors of gender-based violence; Native Americans/Alaska Natives; and persons with limited literacy or English proficiency.