The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its fiscal year 2020 statistics of charges filed and resolved on behalf of charging parties. There were 67,448 charges filed in fiscal year 2020, a reduction from the previous year and the lowest number of charges filed since at least 1992. While part of this drop may be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been a decrease in charges filed each year since 2016.
The EEOC recovered $439.2 million for charging parties and other alleged victims of discrimination through the agency’s voluntary resolution processes and through litigation. The EEOC resolved 70,804 charges in fiscal year 2020. Further, the agency increased its merit resolutions, charges that are resolved prior to litigation in favor of the charging party, to 17.4 percent of all matters. This increase is nearly two percent over fiscal year 2019. At the same time, the EEOC was able to reduce its total inventory of pending charges by 3.7 percent.
In terms of which types of charges were most common, once again retaliation claims were filed most often. A total of 37,632 charges alleging retaliation were filed in fiscal year 2020, which accounts for 55.8 percent of all charges, a slight increase from the year before. There was a slight increase in disability claims but the rest of the top five types of claims (race, sex and age) saw very small decreases.
Sex discrimination claims had been on the rise both before and after the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment, which is generally considered to have begun in late 2017. LGBTQ-based sex discrimination claims remained steady.
It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2020 that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination will have an impact on total LGBTQ-based sex discrimination charges filed.
In addition to discrimination charges, in fiscal year 2020, the EEOC resolved 165 lawsuits and filed an additional 93 lawsuits. Through its litigation on behalf of alleged victims of discrimination, the EEOC recovered $106 million, the largest amount in the last 16 years.
Although there were fewer charges filed in fiscal year 2020, these statistics show that retaliation claims remain common and in fact have increased. Before taking adverse action against an employee, employers should be sure not only to consider whether there are potential discrimination or harassment claims the employee could raise, but also retaliation claims, which can be more difficult to defend. This data is a good reminder to employers to review their policies and practices to ensure they are protecting themselves as much as possible against potential discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims.