Last month the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its enforcement and litigation data for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which ended on September 30, 2016. While this data is collected and reported every year, employers should take note that this is the second year in a row that the total number of charges filed has increased. While the Trump administration’s agenda for EEOC enforcement may change the current FY 2017 – 2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan, the agency’s released strategic plan for the next few years is aggressive.
In FY 2016, there were 91,503 charges of workplace discrimination filed. Charges were filed on the following grounds:
- Retaliation: 42,018 (45.9 percent of all charges filed).
- Race: 32,309 (35.3 percent).
- Disability: 28,073 (30.7 percent).
- Sex: 26,934 (29.4 percent).
- Age: 20,857 (22.8 percent).
- National origin: 9,840 (10.8 percent).
- Religion: 3,825 (4.2 percent).
- Color: 3,102 (3.4 percent).
- Equal Pay Act: 1,075 (1.2 percent).
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 238 (.3 percent).
(Note that these percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple grounds.)
Overall, the EEOC resolved 97,443 charges in FY 2016 (6.5 percent more charges than the agency received) and secured more than $482 million for victims of discrimination, including:
- $347.9 million for victims of employment discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and settlements;
- $52.2 million for workers harmed by discriminatory practices through agency litigation; and
- $82 million for federal employees and applicants.
Notably, this was the first year that the EEOC included detailed information about LGBT charges in its year-end summary. In FY 2016, the agency said it resolved 1,650 charges and recovered $4.4 million for LGBT individuals who filed sex discrimination charges with the EEOC. Additionally, the data show a steady increase in the four years the agency has been collecting LGBT charge data. From FY 2013 through FY 2016, nearly 4,000 charges were filed with the EEOC by LGBT individuals alleging sex discrimination, and the EEOC recovered $10.8 million for these individuals.
In FY 2016, EEOC legal staff resolved 139 lawsuits and filed 86 lawsuits alleging discrimination. The lawsuits filed by the EEOC included 55 individual suits and 31 suits involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies. At the end of the fiscal year, the EEOC had 168 cases on its active docket, of which 48 (28.6 percent) involve challenges to systemic discrimination and an additional 32 (19 percent) are multiple-victim cases. It achieved a successful outcome in 90.6 percent of all suit resolutions, the agency reported.
In addition to its enforcement and litigation data, the EEOC also released its FY 2017 – 2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). The SEP highlights the agency’s enforcement priorities and alerts employers as to what the agency will focus on in the coming years.
For FY 2017 – 2021, the EEOC’s priorities include:
- Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring. The EEOC plans to focus on class-based recruitment and discriminatory or exclusionary hiring practices.
- Protecting Vulnerable Workers, Including Immigrant and Migrant Workers, and Underserved Communities from Discrimination. The focus here will be on job segregation, harassment, trafficking, pay, retaliation, and other policies and practices against vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers and those in underserved communities or persons perceived to be members of these groups.
- Addressing Selected Emerging and Developing Issues. The EEOC will continue to prioritize issues that may be emerging or developing.
- Ensuring Equal Pay Protections for All Workers. The EEOC will continue to focus on compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on sex under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.
- Preserving Access to the Legal System. The EEOC plans to focus on policies and practices that limit substantive rights, discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts.
- Preventing Systemic Harassment. The EEOC will continue to strongly pursue claims of harassment and promote prevention programs, including training and outreach, to deter future violations.
Employers should take note of these priorities and review their own policies and practices with an eye toward anything that may fall under the categories of heightened EEOC attention.