The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Performance and Accountability Report (“the Report”), detailing the Agency’s accomplishments during the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014. Overall, the number of charge filings and monetary recoveries by the EEOC are down compared to FY 2013, but the Report describes the EEOC’s increased focus on systematic enforcement.
The EEOC received 88,778 private sector charges during FY 2014, a decrease of approximately 5,000 from the prior year. The number of charges filed with the EEOC has steadily decreased the past three consecutive years, after reaching a peak of 99,447 in FY 2011.
Through its administrative enforcement activities, the EEOC secured $296.1 million in monetary relief for victims of employment discrimination in private sector, state, or local workplaces, down from the record high of $372.1 in FY 2013. The EEOC also secured $22.5 million in monetary relief for discrimination victims through litigation, off from the $39 million the prior year. Part of the reason for the drop in enforcement activities and monetary recoveries can be explained by the EEOC’s budget constraints and operational challenges in FY 2014, which included sequestration and a government shutdown.
One area where the EEOC has boosted its numbers is in the enforcement of systematic cases of discrimination. Systematic discrimination cases involve employer policies or practices that have a far-reaching impact on a region, industry, or large class of employees or applicants. For example, the EEOC has focused on issues including barriers to recruitment and hiring, discriminatory policies that affect vulnerable workers, discriminatory pay practices, retaliatory practices, and systematic harassment. During the last fiscal year, the EEOC completed 260 systematic investigations, which resulted in 78 settlements and conciliation agreements. By the end of September 2014, cases involving systematic discrimination accounted for 25 percent of all active merits suits handled by the EEOC, the largest percentage of systematic lawsuits involving the EEOC since 2006. The EEOC notes that the number of systematic discrimination lawsuits is likely to remain high in the near future because of the large number of systematic charges currently being investigated by the Agency.
In addition to its enforcement activities, the EEOC published regulations and guidance on a number of important topics in the past year. Most notably, the EEOC issued updated guidance on: pregnancy discrimination, employment background checks, religious garb and grooming in the workplace, and the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act.
Aside from its robust record of addressing systematic discrimination, the EEOC generally experienced a drop in other enforcement and litigation activity compared to last year. However, EEOC enforcement activity may rise next year due to the EEOC’s increased hiring of investigators and technology investments in recent months. In the coming year, employers should expect the EEOC to continue its focus on cases involving systematic discrimination.