On January 25, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its Fiscal Year 2017 Enforcement and Litigation Data. The agency reports that it resolved 99,109 EEOC discrimination charges in the year ending September 30, 2017. The EEOC had a remaining charge workload of 61,621, the lowest year-end level in 10 years.
Among other raw statistics of note, the EEOC received over 540,000 calls and 155,000+ inquiries in its field offices.
The EEOC recovered nearly $400 million on behalf of victims of alleged discrimination.
Bases of EEOC Discrimination Charges
In FY 2017, retaliation was the most common grounds for EEOC discrimination charges. Nearly 50% of all charges included an allegation of retaliation (48.8%).
Three protected characteristics each appeared in nearly one-third of all FY 2017 EEOC discrimination charges: race (33.9%), disability (31.9%), and sex (30.4%). Age discrimination was the next most prevalent allegation, appearing in 21.8% of charges.
Five other categories protected by laws that the EEOC enforces each appeared in less than 10% of the charges:
- National Origin – 9.8%
- Religion – 4.1%
- Color – 3.8%
- Equal Pay Act – 1.2%
- Genetic Information – 0.2%
Sexual Harassment Charges
Sexual harassment is only one subset of the 25,605 sex discrimination charges that the EEOC received in FY 2017. Most cases were claims of disparate treatment (favoring one sex over the other), such as regarding employment, promotion, or compensation.
The EEOC received 6,696 charges alleging sexual harassment. It obtained $46.3 million on behalf of sexual harassment victims.
Perhaps surprising given recent media attention, the number of charges alleging sexual harassment declined in FY 2017. They have steadily gone down over the past decade. But the Harvey Weinstein report (followed by others) did not break until the end of the last EEOC fiscal year. So, it will be interested to revisit this statistic next year.
Other Trends in EEOC Discrimination Charges
The EEOC received fewer charges in FY 2017 (84,254) than it had in any year since FY 2007 (82,792). Last year’s total was down 7.9% from FY 2016.
The number of charges alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and genetic information all reached the lowest levels in at least 5, and in several cases 10+, years.
On the other hand, EEOC charges alleging discrimination based on color reached a 20-year high. Retaliation claims reached their highest proportion of total claims during that same period, continuing a steady upward trend. Disability claims also continued to increase as a percentage of total EEOC discrimination charges.
Geographic Origin of EEOC Cases
Employees of all states may file discrimination charges with the EEOC. In many states, employees also have the option of filing with a state agency that investigates claims under state employment discrimination laws. The varying procedures and substantive grounds for claims under respective state laws may affect the frequency of EEOC cases in a state. The EEOC’s reported statistics do not include charges filed with state or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies.
In FY 2017, 10.5% of all EEOC discrimination charges were filed in Texas. Florida had the second most charges at 8.1%. California was third with 6.4% of charges. These are the also the three most populous states (though California has by far the most residents).
Despite being the fourth largest state by population, New York only accounted for the 8th most EEOC discrimination charges (4.4%). In part, this may be because many employees pursue their claims under the New York State or New York City Human Rights Laws instead of federal law.
Though it has litigation authority, the EEOC does not go to court over many of the charges it receives. The agency filed 184 discrimination lawsuits in FY 2017. This included 124 cases alleging discrimination against an individual, 30 cases involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies, and 30 systemic discrimination cases. The EEOC reports a “successful outcome” in 90.8% of its resolved cases. The agency ended the year with 242 active court cases.
How to Avoid or Prepare for EEOC Discrimination Charges
Employers who learn of possible discrimination, including harassment, must act promptly. This usually involves investigating the circumstances and taking remedial action where warranted.