Discrimination claims rise in 2015, disability cases see biggest jump

The EEOC handled 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal year 2015, a 1% increase overall in a year when retaliation charges again outpaced all other claims of bias.

Retaliation charges jumped 5% in FY2015, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015. The 39,757 retaliation charges made up 45% of all private-sector EEOC complaints.

Retaliation claims have led the way since 2009, when retaliation first surpassed race discrimination as the most common form of discrimination complaint. Employees often file retaliation complaints in addition to underlying claims of discrimination.

Disability charges increased 6% from last year, the largest growth rate among all charges and the third largest category overall.

EEOC complaints spiked during the recession, almost reaching 100,000 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Complaints declined in the past two years before increasing slightly in 2015.

Nearly 28,000 charges—31% of the total—raised an allegation of harassment, usually accompanying an underlying charge of race, age, disability, religion, national origin or sex discrimination, which includes bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Harassment, which rose 4% last year, would be the third most common type of discrimination if it were a separate category.

The EEOC resolved a total of 92,641 discrimination charges in FY2015. Voluntary resolutions and litigation secured more than $525 million for discrimination victims.

The five largest EEOC complaint categories for FY2015:

1. Retaliation 39,757 charges, UP 5% from 2014

Retaliation charges have increased every year since 2006. The EEOC just issued new proposed guidance that defines retaliation more broadly than ever, which could mean even more retaliation changes in years to come.

2. Race discrimination, 31,027 charges, DOWN 1%

Race bias charges peaked at 35,395 in 2011 and have declined 12% since then.

3. Disability discrimination 26,968 charges, UP 6%

Disability discrimination charges have grown faster than any other category, rising 81% in the last 10 years.

4. Sex discrimination 26,396 charges, UP 1%

Sex discrimination charges have held remarkably steady for 20 years, perennially accounting for about 30% of all EEOC charges.

5. Age discrimination 20,144 charges, DOWN 2%

Age bias charges peaked at 24,582 in 2008 but have fallen off by 18% since then.

Rounding out the top 10 were EEOC charges alleging discrimination based on national origin (9,438 charges), religion (3,502), color (2,833), the Equal Pay Act (973) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (257).