The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Federal civil rights and discrimination in employment watchdog, released detailed breakdowns of the 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination that the agency received in fiscal year 2015. Retaliation charges increased by nearly 5% and continue to be the leading concern raised by workers across the country. Disability charges increased by 6% from last year and were the third largest category of charges filed.
Knowing what claims are most commonly filed can help employers operate their business lawfully and perhaps, avoid litigation. The detailed tally shows the following number of claims by type:
- Retaliation – 39,757 (44.5% of all charges filed)
- Race – 31,027 (34.7% of all charges filed)
- Disability – 26,968 (30.2% of all charges filed)
- Sex – 26,396 (29.5% of all charges filed)
- Age – 20,144 (22.5% of all charges filed)
- National Origin – 9,438 (10.6% of all charges filed)
- Religion – 3,502 (3.9% of all charges filed)
- Color – 2,833 (3.2% of all charges filed)
- Equal Pay Act – 973 (1.1 % of all charges filed)
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act – 257 (0.3% of all charges filed)
For those of you keeping track, you will see that these percentages add up to more than 100 because some of the charges alleged multiple bases of discrimination. Charges raising harassment allegations made up almost 31% of all charges filed. As in previous years, the EEOC has made enforcement and targeted outreach a national priority to reduce workplace harassment claims.
Employers should take heed of the fact that retaliation claims are now the most common form of employment discrimination claims filed with the EEOC. Actionable retaliation occurs where an employee engages in some statutorily protected act (for example, complains of discrimination, harassment, wages or workplace safety, among other things) and the employer takes some adverse employment action as a result of that complaint. We can’t say it often enough: employees are entitled to complain about most workplace conditions. It is good practice for employers to listen to such complaints, investigate them (that is also the law in many states) and take reasonable action in response to complaints which the employer reasonably finds have merit. It is not a good idea to punish an employee for making such a complaint.