While the COVID-19 pandemic posed a variety of new challenges for employers, some things remained the same: discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in the workplace remains prevalent. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—which is tasked with enforcing federal laws like Title VII and the ADA that prohibit workplace discrimination—recently released statistical data for its Fiscal Year 2020.
In the last year, 67,448 charges were filed. Among them, retaliation claims led the way, constituting nearly 56% of all charges filed. The next most common charge was disability discrimination, making up approximately 36% of all charges. Race and sex discrimination followed, making up, respectively, nearly 33% and nearly 32% of all charges. [Note: the percentages add up to more than 100% because many charges allege multiple bases.]
These statistics mostly mirror the 2019 statistics, in which retaliation claims again led the way among the nearly 73,000 charges, followed by disability, race, sex, and age discrimination charges.
Perhaps most alarming, in Fiscal Year 2020, the EEOC recovered over $106 million for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation victims through voluntary resolutions and litigation.
Our take-away: While a number of the total charges were likely frivolous and some percentage of the total amount recovered reflected a business decision to settle (because the total cost of defense was or would have been more than the value of the claim), employers can’t ignore the message these numbers are sending. Year over year, the number of disgruntled workers remains high, and employers can and should be taking serious and tangible steps toward improving the workplace and company culture. The cost of not doing so, of course, is significant.