Contributed by Jill Cheskes
The recognized tenet that when the economy is in a downturn, employment claims rise is no more apparent than in the EEOC’s most recent statistics regarding charges of discrimination filed with the agency. Employers, who are already facing tough economic challenges and searching for ways to make a profit, are faced with a record number of claims by employees and ex-employees.
In 2011, the EEOC took in 99,947 charges of discrimination, which is the largest number of charges filed in the agency’s 46 year history. In 2007, before the economic downturn, the number of charges filed was 82,792. The EEOC also boasted on its web site that the agency took in a record “$364.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination.”
For the second year in a row, retaliation claims lead the pack with 37.4% of the charges filed containing a claim for retaliation. Before 2010, race claims historically were the most frequent type of claim filed. Race claims were down for the second year in a row and came in at 35.4%. National origin, religion, age and disability claims are all on the rise as well.
The EEOC has seemingly taken one of two tracks in investigating charges of discrimination. The first is that they take no action for an extended period of time. The EEOC has charges that are sitting for many years with no action occurring. This is frequently attributed to a huge backlog of cases, which should only worsen given the ever-increasing number of charges being filed.
Second, is that they take a hyper-aggressive and broad approach to these investigations by requesting extremely broad information going well beyond the individual complainant at issue. The EEOC has been increasingly searching for classes to pursue and this is evident in their investigation techniques.
Both courses of investigation will continue to tax employers’ resources and time and there does not seem to be any chance of significant relief from these claims for employers in the near future.