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How Can Employers Avoid the EEOC in 2017?

by Martin Salcedo, Esq. - The Human Equation on 2/14/2017
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing a number of federal equal employment opportunity laws. Every year, the EEOC releases information about its enforcement and litigation efforts during the previous fiscal year. If 2016 is any indication, employers must be vigilant to avoid hearing from the EEOC in 2017.

The EEOC receives charges of unlawful employment discrimination on the basis of various protected characteristics, such as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information. In 2016, the EEOC received a total of 91,503 charges of workplace discrimination.

This is the third consecutive year in which the number of EEOC charges has gone up. There were 88,778 and 89,385 charges filed in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Here is a breakdown of the charges filed in 2016:

  • Retaliation under all statutes: 42,018 (45.9%)
  • Race (including racial harassment): 32,309 (35.3%)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment): 26,934 (29.4%)
  • Disability: 28,073 (30.7%)
  • Age: 20,857 (22.8 %)
  • National Origin: 9,840 (10.8%)
  • Religion: 3,825 (4.2%)
  • Color: 3,102 (3.4%)
  • Equal Pay Act: 1,075 (1.2%)
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 238 (0.3%)

The five states with the most charges filed in 2016 were:

  • Texas 9,308 (10.2%)
  • Florida 7,610 (8.3%)
  • California 5,870 (6.4%)
  • Georgia 5,273 (5.8%)
  • Illinois 5,072 (5.5%)

According to the EEOC, it secured more than $482 million for victims of discrimination in private, local, state and federal workplaces in 2016, including:

  • $347.9 million obtained through mediation, conciliation and settlements;
  • $52.2 million obtained through litigation; and
  • $82 million obtained through federal sector processes.

The EEOC also obtained substantial changes to discriminatory practices to remedy violations of equal employment opportunity laws and prevent future discriminatory conduct. It’s worth noting that of the 91,503 charges filed, 65,882 were closed because the EEOC determined there was no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation.

This means that more than 67% of employers had to endure an EEOC investigation despite the lack of reasonable cause to support a claim of discrimination. Since even baseless EEOC investigations can be expensive, employers should consider employment practices liability insurance to help cover the costs.

Employers can avoid the EEOC’s enforcement efforts by creating and enforcing a policy against discrimination and harassment. Employees must also be trained to prevent, detect and address any unlawful behavior. Training should cover all relevant topics, such as employment liabilities, sexual harassment for managers and employees, discrimination and harassment prevention and disability discrimination.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about controlling employment-related liabilities or view our library of online HR courses. You can also receive regular updates about HR news and developments by subscribing to our Newsletter.

The Human Equation prepares all risk management and insurance content with the professional guidance of Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk.

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