By Pamela Wolf, J.D.
In its fiscal year 2015, the EEOC received 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination, up from 88,778 in FY 2014. Retaliation charges were up nearly 5 percent (39,757 in FY 2015 vs. 37,955 in FY 2014) and continue to be the leading concern raised by workers across the country, according to the data
released by the Commission on February 11. Disability charges increased by 6 percent from last year (26,968 in FY 2015 compared to 25,369 in FY 2014) and are the third largest category of charges filed. Race charges comprise the second largest category.
Retaliation again was the most frequently filed charge of discrimination, with 39,757 charges, making up 45 percent of all private sector charges filed with EEOC, according to year-end data. The Commission noted that it is currently seeking public input on its proposed update of enforcement guidance
addressing retaliation and related issues.
In FY 2015, the following number of charges were filed according to bases alleged (percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases):
- Retaliation: 39,757 (44.5% of all charges filed)
- Race: 31,027 (34.7%)
- Disability: 26,968 (30.2%)
- Sex: 26,396 (29.5%)
- Age: 20,144 (22.5%)
- National Origin: 9,438 (10.6%)
- Religion: 3,502 (3.9%)
- Color: 2,833 (3.2%)
- Equal Pay Act: 973 (1.1%)
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 257 (0.3%)
The EEOC additionally noted that charges raising harassment allegations, which span industries and affect the most vulnerable workers, made up nearly 28,000 charges, or 31 percent. Employees alleged harassment based on race, age, disability, religion, national origin and sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Calling it a “pressing issue,” the EEOC pointed out that in March 2015, the Commission launched a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to address this issue.
The EEOC pointed to several accomplishments
in FY 2015, including its resolution of 92,641 charges during its latest fiscal year. The agency secured more than $525 million for victims of discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation. This included $356.6 million for victims of employment discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and settlements; $65.3 million for charging parties through litigation; and $105.7 million for federal employees and applicants.
Nearly 15,000 charge resolutions were achieved through the agency's administrative processes—settlements, mediations, and conciliations—including 268 resolutions of systemic investigations, obtaining more than $33.5 million in remedies. The EEOC’s mediation program achieved a success rate of almost 80 percent. The EEOC underscored the rate at which the agency successfully conciliated
charges, which rose to 44 percent in FY 2015, up from 38 percent the year before, demonstrating a strong commitment to voluntary resolutions.
The agency filed 142 merits lawsuits in FY 2015, up from 133 in FY 2014. The majority of those lawsuits alleged Title VII violations, followed by ADA violations. This included 100 individual lawsuits and 42 lawsuits involving multiple victims of discriminatory policies, of which 16 were systemic. Legal staff resolved 155 lawsuits alleging discrimination.
The EEOC highlighted these milestones for FY 2015:
Sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Commission also underscored its recognition, in Baldwin v. Department of Transportation
, that discrimination against an individual because of his or her sexual orientation is necessarily discrimination because of sex and, therefore, prohibited under Title VII. The EEOC also found, in Lusardi v. Department of Transportation
, that denying a transgender individual access to the restroom corresponding to his or her gender identity constituted harassment based on sex.
In one of its first lawsuits filed to protect transgender workers, the Commission succeeded in reaching a settlement with Lakeland Eye Clinic
, which agreed to adopt a company policy prohibiting discrimination against employees who are transgender, transitioning from one gender to another, and/or not conforming to gender stereotypes.
“Over the past year, EEOC removed barriers to hire and obtained relief for thousands of people facing retaliation, unfair pay, harassment, and other forms of discrimination,” EEOC Chair Jenny Yang said in a statement
. “At the same time, we demonstrated our strong commitment to working with employers to voluntarily resolve charges of discrimination by achieving the highest mediation and conciliation success rates in our history.”