Each year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) releases data detailing the charges of workplace discrimination it receives, the number of enforcement suits filed and resolved, and any areas of targeted investigations and compliance initiatives from the prior year. On January 18, 2017, the EEOC released its Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement and Litigation Data summarizing its findings.
Rising Number of Discrimination Charges – According to the EEOC, in 2016 it received 91,503 charges of discrimination, making 2016 the second consecutive year that the agency has seen an increase in the number of charges. 2016 also marks the third consecutive year in which retaliation was the most frequently filed charge. Below is a chart summarizing the EEOC’s breakdown of the categories of charges filed in 2016 along with a comparison to those charges filed in New Jersey and New York:
|National||New Jersey||New York|
|Retaliation:||42,018 (45.9%)||731 (1.7% of total Retaliation charges in US)||1,604 (3.8% of total Retaliation charges in US)|
|Race:||32,309 (35.3%)||624 (1.9% of total Race charges in US)||1,084 (3.4% of total Race charges in US)|
|Disability:||28,073 (30,7%)||583 (2.1% of total Disability charges in US)||1,061 (3.8% of total Disability charges in US)|
|Sex:||26,934 (29.4%)||500 (1.9% of total Sex charges in US)||1,202 (29% of total Sex charges in US)|
|Age:||20,857 (22.8%)||437 (2.1% of total Age charges in US)||865 (4.1% of total Age charges in US)|
|National Origin:||9,840 (10.8%)||254 (2.6% of total National Origin charges in US)||601 (6.1% of total National Origin charges in US)|
|Religion:||3,825 (4.2%)||104 (2.7% of total Religion charges in US)||180 (4.7% of total Religion charges in US)|
|Color:||3,102 (3.4%)||42 (1.4% of total Color charges in US)||208 (6.7% of total Color charges in US)|
|Equal Pay:||1,075 (1.2%)||Info not available||Info not available|
|Genetic Information:||238 (.3%)||Info not available||Info not available|
Steady Increase in Charges Filed by LGBT Individuals – For the first time, the EEOC included details in its year end summary about sex discrimination charges filed specifically by members of the LGBT community. In fiscal year 2016, it settled 1,650 of such charges, recovering $4.4 million. This accounts for roughly 40% of the 4,000 sex discrimination charges filed by LGBT individuals since fiscal year 2013, which indicates a notable, steady rise in the number of charges filed by members of the LGBT community. Also trending are the issues involving transgendered employees’ restroom rights. In July 2015, the EEOC ruled that denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity constitutes sex discrimination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as does conditioning an employee’s such right on proof that the employee underwent a medical procedure, and/or restricting a transgendered employee to a single-user restroom.
Overall Decrease in Monetary Awards – The EEOC recovered a total of over $482 million in fiscal year 2016, down from the $525 million in 2015, broken down as follows:
- $347.9 million for private-sector, state, and local government employees through mediation, conciliation, and settlements;
- $52.2 million through litigations; and
- $82 million for federal employees.
Downward Trend in Litigation – Over 76% of cases that were referred to mediation in 2016 were resolved successfully, though conciliation had a lower success rate of only 44%. Litigation by the EEOC is experiencing a downward trend, with only 165 active cases on the EEOC’s docket at the end of 2016, as opposed to the 218 that existed at the end of 2015. In addition, the EEOC filed only 86 lawsuits alleging discrimination in 2016, down from its 142 filed in 2015 and 133 in 2014.
New Online Charge Status System – The EEOC launched digital services allowing employers and charging parties to receive and file documents electronically, check the status of charges online, and communicate electronically with the EEOC. These services are intended to streamline the charge process and reduce the number of paper submissions and phone inquiries, easing administrative burdens on the EEOC. These changes may make it easier not only for the agency to handle more charges and resolve them more quickly, but for complainants to file them.
New ADA Regulations on Employer-Sponsored Wellness Plans – The EEOC issued regulations and interpretive guidance advising that employers may provide limited financial and other incentives in exchange for an employee answering disability-related questions or undergoing medical exams as part of a wellness program.
Employers should review the EEOC’s 2016 charge and enforcement data in order to remain vigilant when responding to complaints of harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC’s statistics also reinforces the need for employers to train managers, supervisors, and employees on those policies.
For more information on the EEOC’s year-end summary, the EEOC’s strategy for future enforcement of federal employment discrimination statutes, or ways to ensure that your company is in compliance with the EEOC’s mandates, please contact John C. Petrella, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Employment Litigation Practice Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Practice Group, at email@example.com, or 973-533-0777.
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