On January 25, 2018 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that a decreased number (from 2016) of 84,254 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency during the fiscal year of 2017. These charges, lawsuits and settlements, secured $398 million for victims in private sector, state and local government workplaces, costing organizations and tax payers a significant amount of money. “Retaliation, which topped the list, occurs when employers treat some people less favorably than others…that includes job applicants, employees, and former employees…the 41,097 retaliation charges the EEOC received made up nearly 49 percent of the complaints.”[i]
- “Race: 28,528 charges (33.9 percent).
- Disability: 26,838 charges (31.9 percent).
- Sex: 25,605 charges (30.4 percent).
- Age: 18,376 charges (21.8 percent).
- National origin: 8,299 charges (9.8 percent).
- Religion: 3,436 charges (4.1 percent).
- Color: 3,240 charges (3.8 percent).
- Equal Pay Act: 996 charges (1.2 percent).
- Genetic information: 206 charges (.2 percent).
*The percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.”[ii]
The EEOC also received 6,696 sexual harassment charges and obtained $46.3 million in monetary relief for the victims of these claims. There are two types of sexual harassment claims included; quid pro quo (this for that) and creating a hostile work environment (a variety of issues in the workplace).
Overall, the number of EEOC filings decreased, as compared to 2016 data. However, retaliation claims are on the rise and have been on the rise for many years. As leaders, we need to understand that an employee filing a charge with the EEOC or the Department of Human Rights (NYS legislation), is as easy as going to a website and working through the steps, as outlined on the respected site. The EEOC, in the past, has tweeted steps to submit a claim, through Twitter. These claims are real, do not assume “this can never happen to our organization.” It can, and it does happen to organizations of any size, in any location. A culture of respect and zero-tolerance for discrimination and retaliation, while following up on allegations, will set the tone for reducing the likelihood of claims against our organizations.
The Department of Human Rights has not released statistics for 2017 claims. Employees can file claims with the EEOC and/or Department of Human Rights, if there are issues in the workplace. Use the link below to learn more about what to do in the case of receiving an EEOC charge of discrimination, and as always, if you are uncertain about your compliance or HR practices, seek the assistance of a consultant and/or legal team for guidance.