According to statistics released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) earlier this week, the Agency received over 7% more charges in 2010 than it did the previous year—99,922 as compared to 93,277. Indeed, the number of charges filed were up in every category. The FY 2010 enforcement and litigation statistics, which include trend data, are available online here.
Such statistics are not surprising in light of the large number of layoffs that occurred in 2010, coupled with the difficulties terminated employees had in finding new employment in a down economy. What is more interesting, however, is that, for the first time since the EEOC became operational in 1965, race was not the most prevalent category of alleged discrimination. Rather, retaliation under all statutes (36,258) surpassed race (35,890) as the most frequent basis for filed charges. This should serve as a clear reminder to employers that they must be particularly careful in dealing with employees who have filed charges or made internal complaints and understand that retaliation is prohibited even if the underlying charge or complaint lacks merit.
It is also noteworthy that, in the first year of its enforcement, the EEOC received 201 charges under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”). As employees become more familiar with the provisions of this Act, it is likely that the number of charges under it will increase considerably in years ahead.
There are signs that the economy will rebound in 2011, which would be a welcome relief to all who have felt its impact. Of course, whether that actually occurs or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, employers should be vigilant in making sure their employment decisions are nondiscriminatory because there is an increased likelihood in difficult economic times that these decisions will be challenged.