León Cosgrove

Employer Lessons Gleaned From the EEOC’s 2015 Enforcement Data

By: León Cosgrove LLC

Employer Lessons Gleaned From the EEOC’s 2015 Enforcement DataBy John D. Bosco

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released detailed breakdowns of the 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination that the agency received in federal FY 2015. While the annual number of charges had steadily declined since peak year 2011—when 99,947 were filed—charges are again on the rise.

The EEOC’s litigation and enforcement statistics provide insight into the types of discrimination claims employees are filing and where the Commission is allocating its resources.
Specifically, in 2015:

  • 44.5% of the claims filed alleged employer retaliation.

 

  • Retaliation charges increased by nearly 5% from the previous year and continue to be the leading complaint raised by employees.

 

  • Claims of disability discrimination also reached a record high in 2015. A total of 26,968 such claims were filed, representing 30.2% of total charges.

 

The EEOC also increased the number of merits lawsuits it filed in 2015, most of which alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by suits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of the 142 lawsuits, 42 involved multiple claimants. This demonstrates the Commission’s focus on systemic discrimination, which it defines as discrimination involving “a pattern or practice, policy, or class case where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic area.”

In total, the EEOC secured $356.6 million for charging parties through voluntary resolutions (mediation, conciliation, and settlements), $65.3 million through litigation, and $105.7 million for federal employees and applicants.
Employer Takeaways: How Can You Limit Legal Exposure?

While employers should continue to evaluate their policies and identify vulnerabilities in the areas discussed above, the following best practices can help minimize an employer’s litigation risk:

Revise Your Handbook: Make sure your handbook includes a discrimination and harassment prevention policy with strong anti-retaliation language and an easy to follow complaint procedure. Employers who fail to adopt such internal processes will see higher incidences of EEOC charges.

Train Management: While all employees should be well-trained in proper complaint procedures, this is especially important for management. Train early and often and ensure that management understands your company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

Promptly Address and Investigate Complaints: Employees often complain to their employers prior to filing an EEOC charge. When they do, listen and promptly investigate, and avoid any action that could be considered retaliatory. Nearly half of all charges filed in 2015 included a retaliation allegation. These claims can be viable even if the initial complaint lacks merit, and are generally more believable—and thus harder to defend—if a jury ultimately hears the case.

For additional information or to discuss minimizing your company’s risk of an EEOC enforcement action, contact John Bosco at jbosco@leoncosgrove.com.

 

JohnBosco_BW_WebJohn D. Bosco is a partner in the Dallas, Texas, office of León Cosgrove LLC who focuses his practice on the defense and trial of complex labor & employment and accessibility matters in state and federal courts across the country.