On April 14th, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its Equity Action Plan. In brief, the Equity Action Plan provides an overview of the DOL’s support for marginalized, vulnerable, and underserved communities. Additionally, it covers steps the DOL continuously takes to advance equity. The DOL’s Equity Action Plan follows the Biden administration’s Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities (EO), previously issued in 2021. Indeed, the plan is a part of the EO’s “whole-of-government” racial equity agenda. The DOL’s plan joins other recent federal efforts toward inclusion and discrimination prevention for marginalized communities. Earlier, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it will add a non-binary gender option to its discrimination charge intake forms.

Highlighting Previous Progress

To start, the Equity Action Plan covers the DOL’s progress toward reaching marginalized and underserved populations since 2021. According to the DOL, its early actions support its mission to ensure all working people, job-seekers, and retirees may enjoy economic security and equal opportunity. In brief, the DOL’s previous progress includes, but is not limited to:

  • Broadening the equity impacts of DOL grantmaking by removing barriers that prevent small organizations from participating; and encouraging grantees to serve historically underserved populations.
  • Understanding and improving collected equity data to uncover the extent of missing demographic data, its impact on interpreting program data, and options for improving data quality.
  • Focusing on vulnerable and underserved communities during rulemaking by prioritizing initiatives that will help low-paid workers, workers of color, and others who are underserved.
  • Building stronger partnerships with community-based organizations to help workers better understand their workplace rights. In addition, the action expands worker access to employment and training-related benefits and services.
  • Establishing equity-focused Agency Priority Goals (APGs), or two-year goals that prioritize racial equity, diversity, and inclusion, while holding the DOL accountable for meeting the goal.

Elements of the Equity Action Plan

Overall, the Equity Action Plan’s purpose is to identify and address systemic barriers that prevent underserved, marginalized, and excluded communities from accessing government programs, services, and other opportunities. Additionally, the Equity Action Plan provides a “roadmap” of sorts that clarifies the DOL’s vision and plan to advance equity. This way, these affected communities may hold the DOL accountable to its promised, meaningful change. Briefly, the Equity Action Plan focuses on five high-impact areas. These include:

  1. Enforcing wage and hour laws.
  2. Administering and improving the federal-state Unemployment Insurance system.
  3. Broadening access to department programs and services, as well as information for workers with limited English proficiency.
  4. Expanding sector-based training and employment strategies.
  5. Diversifying the federal workforce through government apprenticeships.

As U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh remarked, “By making equity for historically underserved communities a priority, the Department of Labor will provide workers with greater opportunities to share the benefits as our nation’s economy continues its historic rebound.”