Why it matters

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year 2015, revealing the recovery of more than half a billion dollars through litigation and other enforcement activities, an increase over the prior fiscal year. Of the $527.6 million total, $65.3 million was obtained through litigation (almost three times what was recovered in fiscal year 2014), $356.6 million was attributed to pre-litigation relief for workers in the private sector, with $105.7 million for those in the public sector. As for the focus of its enforcement efforts, the agency resolved 162 merits lawsuits in FY 2015: 87 Title VII claims, 61 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits, 12 claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), one Equal Pay Act (EPA) case, and one Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) claim. Of the new merits lawsuits filed, the numbers remained fairly consistent, with 83 Title VII claims, 53 filed under the ADA, 14 ADEA cases, seven EPA complaints, and one GINA claim. In addition to providing statistics on its enforcement efforts, the agency emphasized its focus on systemic investigations, resolving 268 such suits during FY 2015 for $33.5 million, up from $13 million in the prior fiscal year.

Detailed discussion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its annual Performance and Accountability Report, providing details about the agency's efforts over the course of fiscal year 2015. With statistics galore—on amounts recovered and how and the types of suits filed and resolved—the report provides insight for employers into the EEOC's activities.

For the period of October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015, the EEOC noted an increase in both the number of charges filed as well as its total recovery. In FY 2015, 89,385 charges were filed, up from the prior fiscal year but down from FY 2013's 93,727. The agency also reported a backlog of 76,408 charges at the conclusion of FY 2015, or 750 more charges in backlog than at the end of the last fiscal year.

As for recovery, 2015 brought in big numbers for the EEOC. Merits lawsuits in the federal courts brought in $65.3 million (a significant jump over 2014's $22.5 million) while the administrative enforcement program produced $356.6 million, more than $60 million above the prior fiscal year. An additional $105.7 million was secured for federal employees for a total of $527.6 million.

Cases resolved by the agency included 87 Title VII suits, 61 claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 12 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuits, one Equal Pay Act (EPA) claim, and one lawsuit filed under the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). Touting its conciliation efforts, the agency said 44 percent were successfully resolved in cases of private sector charges.

The number of merits lawsuits filed continued to creep up, with 142 in FY 2015, a rise from 133 in 2014 and 131 in 2013. Of those 142 complaints, 100 were individual suits and 42 involved "discriminatory policies or multiple victims."

Of the new suits filed, 83 alleged violations of Title VII, 53 cited the ADA, 14 made claims under the ADEA, seven referenced the EPA, and one claim was made pursuant to GINA. Ending FY 2015, the EEOC reported 218 cases on its active federal court docket. This reflects a continuing decrease from the prior years, with 228 in 2014 and 231 in 2013.

The EEOC also emphasized its efforts with regard to systemic cases, such as allegations of a pattern or practice of discrimination in a lawsuit that "has a broad impact on an industry, occupation, business, or geographic area." Such lawsuits were included on the agency's strategic enforcement plan with a goal to have systemic cases make up at least 22 percent of its litigation docket by 2016. Despite this goal, the numbers reflect a decrease in the number of systemic lawsuits filed—just 16 in 2015, down from 17 in 2014 and 21 in 2013—and pending in litigation (48 this year, 57 in the prior year, and 54 in 2013).

Over the course of FY 2015, the agency completed 268 systemic investigations, issued 109 cause findings, resolved 70 investigations by voluntary conciliation agreements, and obtained roughly $33.5 million. Twenty-six systemic cases were resolved through litigation, six of which included at least 50 victims of discrimination, the agency said, and 13 that had at least 20 victims.

The EEOC highlighted some of its success stories, including a $3.8 million settlement involving 300 women alleging sexual harassment and discrimination as well as a $2.8 million conciliation with an employer the agency said used a hiring assessment that ran afoul of both Title VII and the ADA.

To read the EEOC's FY 2015 Performance and Accountability Report, click here.