Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
The record number of certain employment-related discrimination claims filed in 2009 indicates the emergence of a trend for which employers should be prepared. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) newly-released enforcement and litigation statistics show that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed during fiscal year 2009, the second-highest annual total for the agency. Private sector charges alleging disability, religion and/or national origin discrimination reached record highs, while the most frequent charges filed in 2009 alleged discrimination based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and discrimination based on sex (30%). This year-end data also indicates that claimants received $376 million in total monetary relief through litigation, administrative enforcement and mediation.
A number of reasons could account for these "near historic" levels. According to the EEOC, such possible factors include:
- greater accessibility of the EEOC to the public;
- 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.
Other factors may include the fact that technology and the media have radically blurred the distinction between work-related behavior and social interaction. In addition, the downturn in the economy has introduced into many individuals' lives a level of work-related stress that cannot help but inform workplace dynamics.
Whatever the cause, employers may not be aware that some of their actions could be deemed retaliatory, adding to the number of discrimination charges filed. It would benefit many employers to evaluate their policies and practices, and take proactive measures. For an in-depth analysis of the EEOC data and recommendations on how to avoid becoming part of next year's discrimination charge statistics, continue reading The Big Picture Behind the Numbers - New EEOC Data Continues a Heightened Trend by Kevin P. O'Neill