On Feb. 5, 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released data announcing that it obtained $372.1 million in monetary recoveries during fiscal year 2013. This recovery amount continues the agency’s five-year upward trend and is the highest recovery total in EEOC history.
EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien applauded the agency’s commitment to “justice and equality in the nation’s workplaces” in the face of “the extraordinary fiscal constraints and operational challenges in fiscal year 2013.” Berrien elaborated that due to budget cuts during fiscal year 2013, the EEOC furloughed its entire workforce for 40 hours, froze hiring, and reduced amounts spent on litigation, information technology, travel and service contracts. Nonetheless, the EEOC reported a 2 percent increase (approximately) in monetary recoveries as compared to fiscal year 2012.
Some notable trends taken from the EEOC’s data include:
- In fiscal year 2013, the EEOC received a total of 93,727 discrimination charges.
- For the fourth consecutive year, the EEOC resolved more discrimination charges than it received, apparently as a result of prior backlogs (97,252 charges resolved versus 93,727 charges received).
- During fiscal year 2013, the EEOC received 5,683 fewer charges than it received during fiscal year 2012, and its lowest number of charges since 2010.
Despite fewer charges being filed, in fiscal year 2013 the EEOC:
- Settled 8,625 charges (8.9 percent).
- Secured a complainant’s withdrawal of his or her charge where the complainant received benefits in 5,497 charges (5.7 percent).
- Administratively closed 15,456 charges (15.9 percent).
- Issued a “no reasonable cause” finding in 64,159 charges (66 percent).
- Found “reasonable cause” in 3,515 charges (3.6 percent), of which the EEOC successfully conciliated 1,437 charges (approximately 40 percent).
- Reached a merit resolution in 17,637 charges.
As in prior years, retaliation was the most cited claim in charges, increasing both in actual numbers (38,539) and as a percentage of all charges filed (41.1 percent). Race (35.3 percent), gender/sexual harassment (29.5 percent) and disability (27.7 percent) claims followed in order of frequency cited. (Note: Because individuals can assert multiple types of discrimination in one charge, the total number of individual claims as a percentage of overall charges filed exceeds 100 percent). The most frequently cited underlying issue giving rise to a charge was discharge, followed by employment “terms and conditions” and harassment.
By examining these trends, employers can gain insight into opportunities for training and other proactive intervention strategies (e.g., training focused on anti-retaliation provisions may be worthwhile). In addition, if historical enforcement data is any indication, fiscal year 2014 should continue to be an active year for the agency and a risky one for employers.