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Discrimination complaints in 2007 saw their largest annual increase since the early 1990s, as the EEOC reported double-digit percentage hikes in almost every kind of discrimination charge. The EEOC fielded 82,792 complaints in 2007, up 9% compared to 2006.

Race discrimination continued to lead the field, but for the first time, retaliation was the second most common complaint. Since 1965, when the commission was created, sex and gender discrimination had consistently held down the No. 2 spot. It fell to third last year.

“This is the greatest one-year increase in more than a decade,” said Elizabeth Bille, counsel of the EEOC’s Office of the Vice Chair. She announced the statistics on March 10 at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2008 Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. “Retaliation has more than doubled since 1992. It's a remarkable change.”

The data, available online at www.eeoc.gov/stats/charges.html, also show that the EEOC recovered $345 million in monetary relief for job bias victims. That’s a 26% increase over 2006.

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.


EEOC Discrimination Charges, FY 2007


Discrimination Charge FY 2007 Percentage Increase
RACE 30,510 Up 12% (highest level since FY 1994)
RETALIATION 26,663 Up 18% (record-high level, double since FY 1992)
SEX/GENDER 24,826 Up 7% (highest level since FY 2002)
AGE 19,103 Up 15% (largest annual increase since FY 2002)
DISABILITY 17,734 Up 14% (highest level since FY 1998)
NATIONAL ORIGIN 9,369 Up 12%
RELIGION 2,880 Up 13% (record-high level, double since FY 1992)
TOTAL CHARGES 82,792 Up 9% (largest annual increase since FY 1993)


Retaliation on the rise

The jump in discrimination 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, the EEOC said.

The dramatic rise in retaliation complaints may be a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s blockbuster ruling in Burlington Northern v. White. In that 2006 decision, the high court established a broad national definition of what management actions would be considered illegal “retaliation” under federal anti-discrimination law.

Essentially, the Burlington Northern ruling made it easier for employees to file and win retaliation lawsuits. At the time, legal experts predicted that employees would file a flood of retaliation claims in the coming years to test the high court's new standard. It appears they were right.

Other forms of discrimination

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, men filed a record 16% of sexual harassment charges, up from 9% in the early 1990s.

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