On February 11, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its Fiscal Year 2015 Enforcement Data. Five key points of the data included in this year's report are provided below. Keep in mind that stats such as these provide insight into the types of discrimination claims employees are filing, as well as the violations of which the Commission is focusing its resources.
- The number of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is once again climbing, according to the latest report. During the past fiscal year, 89,385 charges were filed with the agency, up slightly from the 88,778 charges filed the previous year. Note: the largest number of charges filed with the agency since FY 1997—the first year the agency started compiling such data—is 99,947 charges filed in FY 2011. Charge numbers had steadily declined since that time until this year.
- Retaliation, which frequently is alleged in tandem with discrimination based on a protected characteristic such as race, sex age or disability, increased 5% and was the most common allegation made, appearing in 39,757 charges (44.5% of all charges received). The EEOC has turned up the heat on issuing new enforcement guidelines on retaliation before the end of the Obama presidency. The time period for public comment on the EEOC's proposed enforcement guidelines ends February 24, 2016.
- The 2015 data and proposed enforcement guidance clearly signal the EEOC's intention to continue to pursue systemic claims, with a focus on disability, pay equity, religious accommodation and retaliation. Out of the 89,385 charges received by the EEOC last year, 28,000 charges concerned systemic discrimination (31% of all charges received). Further, the EEOC initiated 42 lawsuits involving multiple victims of discriminatory policies (29% of all lawsuits filed), including 16 lawsuits it characterized as systemic (11% of all lawsuits filed). Considering that the EEOC filed 142 merits lawsuits last year, systemic litigation was clearly predominant, as 42 of the lawsuits targeted “systemic issues.”
- In 2015, allegations of unlawful discrimination based on disability remained a rapidly expanding area of the EEOC's enforcement portfolio, with allegations of disability discrimination appearing in 26,968 charges (30.2% of all charges received). Disability claims increased a reported 6% over 2014, and surpassed allegations of discrimination based on sex, which appeared in 26,396 charges (29.5% of all charges received). Disability discrimination was second only to “race” for the number of charges received in 2015 (31,027 allegations, appearing in 34.7% of all charges received).
- With respect to discrimination charges, the agency's statistics show it resolved 92,641 charges in FY 2015. In total, the agency was able to secure more than $356 million through voluntary resolutions (mediation, conciliation, and settlements), and other $65.3 million for charging parties through litigation.
California employers should continue to evaluate their policies and identify vulnerabilities in all areas mentioned above. Doing so will minimize the risk of litigation regarding these employment practices and lead to improved human resources and enhanced management practices.
The employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley closely monitor as the EEOC and DOL develop new regulations. In the meantime, if you have any questions concerning your rights and/or employment laws in California, feel free to contact us by calling us toll-free at (888) 500-8469.