EEOC charges continue seven-year decline

The EEOC handled 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal year 2017, an 8% decline compared to the year before.

Credit a healthy economy. FY2017 saw the lowest number of EEOC charges since FY2007, before the Great Recession began. As the economic recovery gathered steam, EEOC charges fell dramatically, dropping 16% since FY2010. Employees who feel confident about their financial well-being tend not to complain.

Even so, EEOC claims could spike in 2018. “The country is seeing an extremely polarizing political climate and heightened awareness of discrimination and harassment,” says Hannesson Murphy, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. “With that background, it’s unlikely that the number will continue to plummet.”

Overall, retaliation charges again outpaced all other claims of bias, even though they fell 2% in FY2017, which ran from October 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017. The 41,097 retaliation charges made up 49% 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 bias claims.

Race discrimination was the second most common EEOC charge, filed in 28,528 cases, 11% fewer compared to FY2016.

Nearly 27,000 charges—32% of the total—raised an allegation of harassment, usually accompanying an underlying charge of some other form of discrimination. That’s slightly less than last year, but those charges came with a hefty price tag. The EEOC says monetary relief in sexual harassment cases hit its highest level since 2010.

Harassment would be the third most common type of discrimination if it were a separate category.

Disability discrimination was the fourth most common charge, with 26,838 claims, 4% less than the year before.

Rounding out the top five, sex discrimination charges also fell to a total of 25,605, a 5% decline compared to FY2016.

Race: 28,528
Disability: 26,838
Sex: 25,605
Age: 18,376
National origin: 8,299