The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published its FY 2008 Performance and Accountability Report, revealing that the EEOC received a record high 95,402 discrimination charges against private employers in 2008, which is a 15.2% increase from 2007. The EEOC resolved 81,081 charges in 2008, and obtained roughly $274.1 million in remedies for charging parties. The Report also indicates that the number of charges pending with the EEOC as of September 30, 2008 was 73,951, as compared with a backlog of 54,970 charges that existed on the same day in 2007.

The most dramatic increase in charge activity was in the area of age-related claims. The number of charges alleging age-bias increased by 29 percent, from 19,103 in fiscal year 2007 up to 24,600 in 2008. One possible explanation for the rise in age-related claims is that there is an increasing number of older employees in the workforce. Currently, some 40% of people over age 55 are in the workforce; in contrast, only 32% of people over age 55 were working in 2000.

In terms of litigation, the EEOC resolved 339 lawsuits during fiscal year 2008 for a total recovery of roughly $102.1 million. Of those lawsuits, 265 involved claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; 47 involved violations of the ADA; 41 included claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and three involved Equal Pay Act claims.

The combination of rising unemployment and new legislation, including the Genetic Information Non- Discrimination Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the ADA Amendments Act, is likely to contribute to a continued rise in charge and suit activity. Employers should expect 2009 to be another record-setting year for the EEOC and should continue vigilant preventative measures.