A triple-whammy of forces—new laws, new EEOC outreach programs and ongoing economic malaise—helped push the number of employee job discrimination claims to 99,922 in federal fiscal year 2010, the highest annual total in the EEOC’s 45-year history.
Charges of race, sex, age, disability and religious discrimination typically rise during recessions. But, the EEOC says, “The surge in charge receipts is due in part to the expanded statutory authorities that EEOC has been given with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.”
Plus, the EEOC has worked harder to teach U.S. workers about their job discrimination rights and make it easier for them to file bias claims.
“In the last four years, the EEOC has concentrated on revamping its charge intake services, expanding walk-in hours and issuing a plain-language brochure to assist potential charging parties,” says the agency’s FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report.
The record claims resulted in record recoveries. Last year, the agency secured $319 million for 18,989 people through administrative enforcement (settlements, mediation, etc.).
The greatest surprise: The EEOC is closing more files. Last year, it resolved 105,000 charges, leaving it with an inventory of 86,000 cases. That number seems high, but it’s only a 1% increase from 2009. In contrast, the EEOC’s pending cases increased 16% from 2008 to 2009.
What’s the message for employers? “The EEOC is no longer the agency where charges go to die,” says Jon Hyman, Esq., of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz in Cleveland. “Employers can expect more thorough investigations, quicker resolutions and more aggressive enforcement. If you are charged with discrimination with the EEOC, you should take it seriously. The EEOC is.”
Free report: How to Respond to an EEOC Complaint: 10 Steps to Success. Go to www.theHRSpecialist.com/whitepaper.