The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently released its statistical figures for employment discrimination charges filed for the year ending September 2009. Over 93,000 discrimination charges were filed with the EEOC in the past year, making it the second highest in the agency’s history. The EEOC recovered over $376 million through enforcement, mediation, and litigation programs. The money was not only used to compensate victims of discrimination but was also used to benefit workers through out the country by way of court settlements requiring employers to change discriminatory policies. Our employment law lawyers successfully have represented many clients in charges of discrimination and harassment before the EEOC.
The most frequently filed charges were based on race and retaliation, with sex discrimination next in line. Private sector charges (including those filed against state and local governments) alleging discrimination based on disability were up 10% from the previous year, national origin discrimination complaints increased 5% and religious discrimination complaints were up 3%. Age discrimination charges hit their second highest level. The largest increase was for disability discrimination complaints which went up by 10%.
The high number of discrimination charges filed with the EEOC is due to several factors. Employees are much more aware of their legal rights and also have much better accessibility to the EEOC. The EEOC has attributed the rise to economic conditions and increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force. Some changes in the laws, like the American with Disabilities Act, have also made it easier for employees to meet the definition of being disabled. The recent economic recession and longer and healthier life expectancies may also have contributed to the rise in age discrimination claims in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the 2nd highest level ever. The EEOC also enforces complaints under Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Equal Pay Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Our skilled employment lawyers are experienced in handling employment discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation claims before the EEOC and familiar with the EEOC’s guidelines and regulations. After a complaint or charge of discrimination is filed, if the parties do not engage in mediation, the EEOC will conduct an investigation and determine whether there is “probable cause” that the alleged discrimination occurred or not.
The numbers suggest that workplace discrimination is not a thing of the past but a rising, persistent issue that needs to be dealt with. Since employees are aware of their legal rights, employers need to keep their workplace free of discriminatory practices as well as keep current with changes in discrimination law. The number of claims may be reflective of our litigious society but should be sign to all employers should be pro-active in preventing and minimizing employment law claims. Employers need to have employment manuals as well as policies and procedures in place for any discrimination related issues that arise. An employee handbook and/or personnel manual can provide defenses for an employer in some employment law claims such as sexual harassment and wage claims. Without the appropriate employment policies, an employer can be exposed to liability and fines in employment law cases. Our experienced employment law attorneys who defend employers can help your company develop a tailored employment manual and implement workplace policies (including conducting trainings to employees and supervisors) to help you avoid costly, unnecessary litigation. Not only is it socially responsible and enable employers to focus on their business, it is much more economical for employers to be proactive in preventing and handling complaints of employment discrimination before they become charges of discrimination before the EEOC. Call (800) 893-9645 to speak with one of our employment law lawyers and discuss employment law issues affecting your business and/or defending your company against an EEOC charge of discrimination.
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