Workplace discrimination charges rose in 2009, reaching the second highest level ever recorded, according to federal officials.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during fiscal year 2009 ended Sept. 30, while monetary relief obtained by the agency for victims topped $376 million.
Private sector job bias charges (which include those filed against state and local governments) alleging discrimination based on disability, religion and/or national origin hit record highs. The number of charges alleging age-based discrimination reached the second-highest level ever.
Continuing a decade-long trend, the most frequently filed charges in 2009 were charges alleging discrimination based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and sex-based discrimination (30%).
The near-historic level of total discrimination charge filings may be due to multiple factors, including greater accessibility of the EEOC to the public, economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force, employees’ greater awareness of their rights under the law, and changes to the agency’s intake practices that cut down on the steps needed for an individual to file a charge, according to federal officials.
The EEOC reported it resolved 85,980 private sector charges and resolved more charges than ever alleging unlawful harassment, as well as allegations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Through its combined enforcement, mediation and litigation programs, the EEOC said it recovered more than $376 million in monetary relief for discrimination victims. The EEOC said $294 million of this total was recovered through administrative enforcement and mediation.
“The latest data tell us that, as the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the commission’s work is far from finished,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Equal employment opportunity remains elusive for far too many workers and the commission will continue to fight for their rights. Employers must step up their efforts to foster discrimination-free and inclusive workplaces, or risk enforcement and litigation by the EEOC.”
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