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Despite decline, harassment and retaliation cases increase

The number of Florida residents filing claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was down in fiscal year 2017 as compared to previous years. Sunshine State filings tracked national numbers that have been trending downwards since 2010 despite a slight bump last year from 2015 numbers. Fiscal year 2017, which ended in September, saw just 84,254 EEOC filings nationwide. In 2010, there were 99,922 filings. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing and administering federal civil rights laws in the majority of employment settings.

While overall numbers declined, the relative percentage of gender-based claims saw an uptick, and 30.4% of all reported claims alleged sexual discrimination or harassment in the workplace. It remains to be seen whether the recent focus on sexual harassment will create a greater spike in fiscal year 2018, but it is reasonable to assume the possibility. Retaliation claims remain the most popular allegation with 48.8% of all filings containing a retaliatory component. Retaliation is a nonspecific claim that can exist independently or in conjunction with other civil rights claims. It is consistently the most common reason for cases in annual numbers.

The EEOC has enforcement jurisdiction over most employers in the United States with at least 15 employees. Smaller employers are not exempt from civil rights laws but are generally under the jurisdiction of various state-level agencies. In every state, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, national origin, faith, color or ethnicity. The EEOC receives claims related to each of those categories as well as for Equal Pay Act violations, which comprise 1% of national filings.

When workers are subjected to discrimination or harassment of any kind, there are strict guidelines in place for reporting such behavior to their employers and whatever regulatory agencies are appropriate. Consulting a qualified employment law attorney can provide people with perspective and guidance when navigating a difficult workplace environment.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 'Charge Statistics (Charges filed with EEOC) FY 1997 Through FY 2017," Accessed 2/10/2018

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