The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recovered $372.1 million for aggrieved employees in fiscal year 2013, the agency has announced. According to the EEOC, this is the highest monetary recovery in its history and continues the agency’s upward trend, despite complications from government sequestration, furloughs, and hiring freezes.
FY 2013, which ended September 30, 2013, also saw the EEOC file 131 lawsuits alleging workplace discrimination. Those brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were the most numerous (78), followed by those under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (51). Further, the agency resolved 209 lawsuits, bringing in $39 million in monetary benefits, as well as resulting in injunctive relief.
Although the EEOC publicizes its litigation settlements, almost 90 percent of the money recovered by the agency in the last fiscal year was recovered in the earlier stages of the EEOC’s enforcement process, often with no publicity. These pre-litigation settlements can occur soon after the filing of a charge in the EEOC’s voluntary mediation program or during the EEOC’s investigation in the form of a negotiated settlement. Additionally, at the conclusion of an investigation, if the EEOC finds cause to believe discrimination occurred, it is required by law to engage in conciliation efforts to settle the charge.
The EEOC continues to implement its Strategic Plan and began implementing its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), prioritizing systemic enforcement, expanding education and outreach, and improving customer service. (For more on the SEP, see our article, Targeting Class-Based Discrimination Tops EEOC’s Ambitious 2013-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan.) At the end of FY 2013, the EEOC had 231 cases on its active docket, of which 46 (20 percent) were non-systemic class cases, and 54 (23 percent) involved challenges to alleged systemic discrimination. Further, the agency had conducted 300 systemic investigations resulting in 63 settlements or conciliation agreements that recovered approximately $40 million.
The number of charges dropped last year. In FY 2013, the EEOC received 93,727 charges, a 5.7 percent decrease from the 99,412 charges received in FY 2012. Retaliation under all statutes enforced by the EEOC (including Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the ADA, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) was the most frequently cited basis for claimed discrimination, increasing in both actual numbers (38,539) and as a percentage of all charges (41.1 percent) from the previous year. This was followed by race discrimination (33,068/35.3 percent), sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination (27,687/29.5 percent), and discrimination based on disability (25,957/27.7 percent). Both race and disability discrimination filings increased as a percentage of all charges while decreasing in raw numbers from the previous year; charges of sex discrimination decreased by more than 2,600.