The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, recently released its statistical data on fiscal year 2010 filings. The data indicated that workplace discrimination complaints against private sector firms reached an all-time high in 2010. The Commission reported that filings with the federal agency nationwide totaled 99,922 during fiscal year 2010, which ended on September 30, 2010. That was a seven percent increase over fiscal year 2009. The Commission reported that in fiscal year 2010, it received more employment discrimination complaints than any other year in the 45-year history of the commission. The Commission stated that the nearly 100,000 complaints it received in fiscal year 2010 resulted in over $400 million in payments from employers.
The Commission reported that greater diversity in the work force is one of the factors that may have led to the record number of job-related bias complaints. The overall economy in the country and the high rates of unemployment no doubt also contributed to the increase in bias complaints against employers.
According to the fiscal year 2010 data, all major categories of charge filings in the private sector (which include charges filed against state and local governments) increased. These include charges alleging discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Equal Pay Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”). Claims of work-related racial discrimination rose seven percent in 2010. Retaliation claims rose eight percent last year. However, the greatest increase came in the area of disability discrimination. Disability discrimination claims rose 17 percent in 2010. Congress amended the ADA in 2009. The 2009 amendments to the ADA made it easier for persons with certain treatable conditions, such as epilepsy, cancer, or mental illness, to make a disability claim. The unemployment rate for disabled workers is nearly 5.5 percent higher than the population of workers with no disability.
Last year, for the first time ever, retaliation claims under all statutes (36,258) surpassed race (35,890) as the most frequently filed charge, while allegations based on religion (3,790), disability (25,165), and age (23,264) also increased. Historically, race had been the most frequently filed charge since the EEOC became operational in 1965.
In its first year of enforcement, the EEOC received 201 charges under GINA. GINA prohibits group health plans and health insurers from denying coverage to a healthy individual or charging that person higher premiums based solely on a genetic predisposition to developing a disease in the future. GINA also bars employers from using individuals’ genetic information when making hiring, firing, job placement, or promotion decisions.
Despite the increase in overall charges filed with the EEOC last fiscal year, the Commission reported that it was successful in slowing the growth of the charge inventory. As a result, the Commission ended fiscal year 2010 with 86,338 pending charges — an increase of only 570 charges, or less than one percent. Between fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the Commission’s pending inventory increased 15.9 percent.
The EEOC filed 250 lawsuits, resolved 285 lawsuits, and resolved 104,999 private sector charges during the last fiscal year. Through its combined enforcement, mediation, and litigation programs, the EEOC said it secured more than $404 million in monetary awards from employers — the highest level of monetary relief ever obtained by the Commission through the administrative process. The EEOC’s mediation program ended the year with a record 9,370 resolutions, 10 percent more than the fiscal year 2009 levels, and awarded more than $142 million in monetary benefits. The EEOC also expanded its reach to underserved communities by providing educational training and public outreach events to approximately 250,000 persons.
The Commission reported that it is continuing its concerted effort to build a strong national systemic enforcement program. At the end of the 2010 fiscal year, 465 systemic investigations, involving more than 2,000 charges, were being undertaken. The EEOC resolved a total of 7,213 requests for hearings in the federal sector, securing more than $63 million in relief for parties who requested hearings. The agency also resolved more than 4,600 federal sector appeals — 400 more than in fiscal year 2009. In a statement released with the report, EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien said: “We are pleased to see that our rebuilding efforts are having an impact on how efficiently and effectively the Commission enforces the civil rights laws protecting the nation’s workers. Discrimination continues to be a substantial problem for too many job seekers and workers, and we must continue to build our capacity to enforce the laws that ensure that workplaces are free of unlawful bias.”