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EEOC Introduces Fresh Outreach Initiative

In January, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), led by Commissioner Kalpana Kotagal, initiated the REACH program: “Enhancing OutREACH to Vulnerable Workers and Underserved Communities.” This new, multi-year endeavor aims to ensure that the EEOC’s outreach and educational endeavors effectively engage workers who may not typically seek assistance from the agency, notwithstanding their significant need.

“I am pleased that Commissioner Kotagal has taken the helm of this pivotal effort to ensure the accessibility of the EEOC to all segments of the population, including the most vulnerable workers and those residing in areas of the country distant from an EEOC office,” stated EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “The REACH program will enable us to identify means to more efficiently connect with underserved communities—including rural regions, numerous Tribal nations, and other areas far removed from the EEOC’s 53 field locations.”

The REACH initiative, supported by DC EEOC laywers, will:

  1. Conduct in-person and virtual listening sessions with various stakeholders nationwide to explore how the EEOC can reinforce its outreach to vulnerable and underserved communities by pinpointing existing obstacles to reporting discrimination and soliciting recommendations to better serve these populations.
  2. Assess existing research and recommendations on effective outreach strategies, tools, and methods to inform the initiative’s work.
  3. Identify exemplary practices for engaging vulnerable and underserved communities and explore strategies to establish a stronger presence in rural and remote areas lacking physical EEOC offices.
  4. Formulate recommendations for enhancing outreach efforts to be presented to the EEOC Chair.

Kotagal is hosting her inaugural in-person REACH listening session in Las Vegas today, engaging with local non-profit organizations and labor unions experienced in assisting low-wage workers and workers of color, serving as trusted allies on the ground.

“As the daughter of immigrants, I understand the potential of this great nation, largely due to our deep commitment to equal opportunity,” Kotagal affirmed. “By ensuring the Commission is accessible to vulnerable and underserved communities, we can promote fair and inclusive workplaces and drive systemic change. I appreciate the opportunity to directly hear from local stakeholders nationwide about how the agency can enhance its outreach efforts and actualize the promise of equal opportunity for all.”

The REACH initiative advances Objective II.A of the EEOC’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026, ensuring that “[m]embers of the public are aware of employment discrimination laws and know their rights and responsibilities under these laws.”

Furthermore, it aligns with the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2028 (SEP), which prioritizes safeguarding vulnerable workers from employment discrimination. The SEP identifies vulnerable workers as: immigrant and migrant workers and workers on temporary visas; individuals 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.

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