Retaliation Charges Top the List Again

Feb 1 2017 - Discrimination, Harassment - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

retaliation harassment eeoc

Race and disability had the second and third most charges, respectively.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released detailed breakdowns of the 91,503 charges of workplace discrimination that the agency received in fiscal year 2016.

Year after year, retaliation claims top the list and this year was no different. Retaliation accounts for over 45 percent of all charges filed with the agency.

The EEOC resolved 97,443 charges in FY 2016 — almost 5,000 more charges than the previous fiscal year. It secured more than $482 million for victims of discrimination in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation.

Of the charges filed with the EEOC in FY 2016:

  • Retaliation is the number one charge with 42,018 (45.9 percent of all charges filed).
  • Race charges came in second with 32,309 charges (35.3 percent).
  • Disability charges took third with 28,073 charges (30.7 percent).
  • Sex charges were a near fourth with 26,934 charges (29.4 percent).

The remaining discrimination charge statistics are as follows:

  • Age: 20,857 (22.8 percent)
  • National Origin: 9,840 (10.8 percent)
  • Religion: 3,825 (4.2 percent)
  • Color: 3,102 (3.4 percent)
  • Equal Pay Act: 1,074 (1.2 percent)
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 238 (0.3 percent)

These percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.

In addition, claims of harassment made up over 28,000 charges received. Employees claimed harassment based on race, age, disability, religion, national origin and sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual harassment claims do not make up the majority of claims filed. Unlawful harassment can occur against individuals on other protected bases.

This is the first year that the EEOC has included detailed information about LGBT charges. The EEOC resolved 1,650 charges and recovered $4.4 million for LGBT individuals who filed sex discrimination charges with the EEOC in FY 2016.

Moreover, the data shows a steady increase of LGBT charge data in the four years the agency has been collecting this information. From FY 2013 through FY 2016, LGBT individuals filed nearly 4,000 charges alleging sex discrimination with the EEOC, and the EEOC recovered $10.8 million for victims of discrimination.

“EEOC advances opportunity for all of America’s workers and plays a critical role in helping employers build stronger workplaces,” said former EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. “Despite the progress that has been made, we continue to see discrimination in both overt and subtle forms. The ongoing challenge of combating employment discrimination is what makes EEOC’s work as important as ever.”

California Doesn’t Top the List

The EEOC also keeps track of the number of charges it receives by state. Texas tops the list with 9,308 charges/10.2 percent of the nationwide total. Florida is next with 7,610 charges/ 8.3 percent of the nationwide total. Then comes California with 5,970 charges/6.4 percent of the nationwide total.

These figures aren’t surprising given the large populations of these states. Also, keep in mind that in California employees also have another avenue for complaining of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Employees can file their charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing instead of, or in addition to, the EEOC.

Retaliation Prevention

As previously reported the EEOC recently issued its final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues.

California protections against retaliation are also strong. Don’t forget that new California regulations (effective April 1, 2016) make significant changes to employer obligations and emphasize the affirmative duty to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

Training for supervisors on what constitutes retaliation and on your policy against retaliatory practices is essential. Best practices also include carefully reviewing discipline and termination decisions that involve individuals who participated in a complaint of unlawful workplace conduct and consulting legal counsel.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

CalChamber members can learn more about what employee actions are protected in the HR Library’s Retaliation section. Not a member? Learn about the benefits of membership.

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