Job Bias Claims Against Employers Up 9%– Biggest Rise in Years

March 6, 2008

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a total of 82,792 private sector discrimination charge filings last fiscal year, the highest volume of incoming charges since 2002 and the largest annual increase (9%) since the early 1990s, the agency reported.

The EEOC said it recovered $345 million in monetary relief for job bias victims in 2007.

According to the EEOC’s FY 2007 data, allegations of discrimination based on race, retaliation, and sex were the most frequently filed charges, continuing a long-term trend. Additionally, nearly all major charge categories showed double digit percentage increases from the prior year — a rare occurrence.

Officials said the jump in charge filings may be due to a combination of factors, including greater awareness of the law, changing economic conditions, and increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force.

Last year, for the first time, retaliation was the second highest charge category (behind race), surpassing sex-based charges in total filings with EEOC offices nationwide. Historically, race has been the most frequently filed charge since the EEOC became operational in 1965. In addition to the statutory bases of discrimination, charges filed with the EEOC and state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (combined) also trended upward for the high visibility issues of pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment.

During FY 2007, pregnancy charges surged to a record high level of 5,587, up 14% from the prior fiscal year’s record of 4,901. Sexual harassment filings increased for the first time since FY 2000, numbering 12,510 – up 4% from the prior fiscal year’s total of 12,025. Additionally, a record 16% of sexual harassment charges were filed by men, up from 9% in the early 1990s.

“Corporate America needs to do a better job of proactively preventing discrimination and addressing complaints promptly and effectively,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “To ensure that equality of opportunity becomes a reality in the 21st century workplace, employers need to place a premium on fostering inclusive and discrimination-free work environments for all individuals.”

Other year-end statistics show that the EEOC:

Recovered approximately $345 million in total monetary relief for charging parties, up 26% from the prior year’s total of $274 million. Nearly $55 million was obtained through EEOC litigation and more than $290 million through administrative enforcement, including mediation. Additionally, the agency obtained substantial non-monetary relief, such as employer training, policy implementation, reasonable accommodations, and other measures to promote discrimination-free workplaces.

Resolved 72,442 private sector charges, with a historically high merit factor rate of 23%. Merit factor resolutions include mediation and other settlements and cause findings, which, if not successfully conciliated, are considered for litigation. Most meritorious charges are resolved voluntarily with employers prior to any EEOC litigation.

Resolved a record 8,649 charges through its voluntary National Mediation Program (up 5% from the prior year’s record high), with a user satisfaction rate of 96% indicating that nearly all participants would return to the program in the future. At the end of FY 2007, the EEOC had entered into 1,269 Universal Agreements to Mediate (UAMs) with employers nationwide (154 national/regional UAMs and 1,115 local UAMs) — a 15% increase from the FY 2006 level.

Filed 336 merits lawsuits (direct suits, interventions and other enforcement actions), including 116 class cases involving multiple aggrieved parties or victims of discriminatory policies. Significant injunctive and remedial relief was also achieved through litigation settlements, jury trials and court rulings. The agency’s litigation program increasingly focused on class and systemic cases as part of its national law firm model.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Source: EEOC

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