Thursday, January 21, 2010
EEOC Reports Job Bias Charges Approach Record High in 2009
Commission Obtains $376 Million for Victims of Discrimination
By Tommy Eden, Attorney
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the second highest level ever, and monetary relief obtained for victims totaled over $376 million. The comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for FY 2009, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, are posted on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/index.cfm
“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.”
The FY 2009 data show that 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 with the EEOC in FY 2009 were charges alleging discrimination based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and sex-based discrimination (30%). Multiple types of discrimination may be alleged in a single charge filing.
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.
The FY 2009 data also show that the EEOC resolved 85,980 private sector charges. In FY 2009, the Commission resolved more charges than ever alleging unlawful harassment, as well as allegations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In FY 2009, the EEOC recovered a record high of $294 million through administrative enforcement and mediation. Further, the productivity of EEOC investigators increased in FY 2009. The EEOC resolved the second highest number of charges per available investigator in the past 20 years.
The Commission also filed 281 new “merits” lawsuits and resolved 321 merits lawsuits in FY 2009 (merits suits include direct suits and interventions alleging violations of the substantive provisions of the statutes enforced by the Commission and suits to enforce administrative settlements). Through its combined enforcement, mediation and litigation programs, the EEOC recovered more than $376 million in monetary relief for thousands of discrimination victims, and obtained significant remedial relief benefiting millions of workers across the country (e.g., court decrees or settlements requiring employers to change discriminatory policies or practices).
Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com