New federal employment discrimination claim statistics

The EEOC has announced data for FY 2015 employment discrimination claim filings.

On February 11, 2016, the federal government announced the availability of employment discrimination claim filing statistics for fiscal year 2015. In its press release, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted the significance in the data that relates to claims of employer retaliation and of race discrimination.

The EEOC is the federal agency tasked with enforcing federal civil rights laws that target illegal discrimination, harassment and retaliation in employment. As part of that mission, victims can file claims against their employers with the agency, which investigates the charges and facilitates negotiation or conciliation processes between the parties in an attempt to reach fair settlement. Sometimes when parties cannot resolve their dispute, the agency files a lawsuit on behalf of the victim.

Here are some of the significant numbers from the newly released FY 2015 data:

  • Total charges: 89,385
  • Race: 31,027 or 34.7 percent
  • Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual harassment): 26,396 or 29.5 percent
  • National origin: 9,438 or 10.6 percent
  • Religion: 3,502 or 3.9 percent
  • Color: 2,833 or 3.2 percent
  • Retaliation: 39,757 or 44.5 percent
  • Age (40 or older): 20,144 or 22.5 percent
  • Disability: 26,968 or 30.2 percent
  • Equal pay: 973 or 1.1 percent
  • Genetic information: 257 or 0.3 percent

(The percentages add up to more than 100 percent because some claimants alleged more than one basis for their claims.)

According to EEOC attorney Raymond L. Peeler, after the agency was founded in 1965, for the next 44 years race-based claims were the most-often-filed category of discrimination charges. Beginning in 2009, however, and continuing through the most recent fiscal year, retaliation was the number-one category for claims against private employers. Significantly, race does remain the second-highest-filed category in FY 2015, still comprising about one-third of all claims.

Illegal retaliation occurs if an employer somehow punishes an employee, job applicant or ex-employee for engaging in protected activity under anti-discrimination law. Examples of retaliatory actions could be job termination or refusal to hire, demotion, failure to promote, withholding of benefits or raises, undeservedly poor reviews, poor recommendations and so on.

The kinds of protected activities against which retaliation, also called reprisal, is unlawful include reporting discrimination or harassment internally, filing a charge with a state or federal agency, bringing a lawsuit, supporting a colleague in his or her claim by providing testimony, cooperating in an investigation and so on.

EEOC attorney Peeler calls retaliation protection the "linchpin" of the whole civil rights enforcement system because workers will largely stop reporting and exerting their rights against employment discrimination if they are afraid they will be fired or suffer other negative employment consequences for doing so.

Anyone who thinks that he or she may have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work should speak with legal counsel for advice about how to respond and to understand potential legal remedies such as a claim filed with a state or federal agency or a lawsuit. Procedures and deadlines are complicated and strictly enforced in this area of the law, so seeking legal advice as soon as possible may be important.

With offices in Boca Raton, the attorneys at the Law Office of William M. Julien, P.A., represent workers in South Florida and statewide in discrimination, harassment and retaliation matters against their employers.