The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released their Enforcement and Litigation Statistics and Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2020. These reports reveal trends in employee discrimination charges filed with the EEOC and provide public information about how charges were resolved. To better understand key findings and their implications, we turn to “EEOC FY 2020 Statistics: EEOC’s Recovery on Behalf of Employees Dramatically Increased, Number of Discrimination Charges at All-Time Low,” by Robin Banck Taylor of Butler Snow LLP found here.
For the past four years, the EEOC has reported a decrease in discrimination charges filed. In FY 2020, 67,448 charges of discrimination were filed with the EEOC, down from 72,625 in FY 2019. The categories that made up the largest percentage of claims were retaliation (55.8%), disability (36.1%), race (32.7%), and sex (31.7%). Notably, the percentage of charges filed per category only increased for “retaliation, disability, color, and genetic information.” The percentage of charges filed in the disability category changed the greatest, going from 33.4% of cases in FY 2019 to 36.1% in FY 2020. Although there were fewer LGBT-based sex discrimination charges in FY 2020, Taylor expects cases to increase with the Supreme Court’s decision of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which equates LGBT-based workplace discrimination to sex-based workplace discrimination.
The EEOC resolved 70,804 discrimination charges in FY 2020. Despite this being fewer than the number resolved in FY 2019, the EEOC granted over $535.4 million to employees alleging discrimination – the greatest amount in 16 years. $333.2 million were awarded through mediation, conciliation, and settlements, while only $106 million were awarded through litigation. The EEOC filed 93 merits lawsuits and 13 systemic suits in FY 2020, down from 144 and 17, respectively, in FY 2019. They also conducted 9,036 mediations, of which 6272 were successfully resolved. Taylor states, “The EEOC launched its Mediation Pilot program in June 2020 and we expect the EEOC to place a strong emphasis on mediation in the upcoming year.” The Mediation Pilot program will expand the categories of charges eligible for EEOC mediation, which is offered at no cost.
What are the implications of the above information for employers? Taylor explains, “While overall charges filed have decreased, the EEOC’s enforcement efforts remain robust with increases in recovery of monetary benefits for employees alleging discrimination.” Two major areas of concern are retaliation and disability-based discrimination. Taylor recommends that organizations train employees at all levels to recognize and combat retaliation. To prevent disability-based discrimination, it is imperative that all supervisors and managers are trained on ADA compliance. In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important to realize that continuing to work remotely may be a reasonable accommodation for certain individuals with disabilities. Although such a request may have been easily dismissed in the past, lockdowns have demonstrated that telecommuting is an effective option that does not necessarily pose undue hardship to organizations.
In summary, despite the number of discrimination charges filed with the EEOC decreasing for the fourth year in a row, discrimination in the workplace continues to be a serious problem. In fact, In FY 2020, the EEOC secured the highest amount of money for employees alleging discrimination in 16 years. Employers must continue to combat discrimination in the workplace by implementing anti-discrimination policies and procedures and by training employees at all levels to recognize and report unethical practices.