Complaints of retaliation by employers trumped race for the second consecutive year, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC said total new complaints during fiscal 2011 were just slightly ahead of 2010. Last year it received 99,947 claims compared to 99,922 the year before. It also reported taking in $455.6 million through its administrative program and litigation.
Released last week, the stats show charges of retaliation by employers against workers who raised discrimination issues accounted for 37.4 percent of the commission’s workload. Complaints alleging just violations of Title VII (discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin) accounted for 31.4 percent of the complaints.
Retaliation claims are rising faster than any other category of complaint, up 10 points in the last decade. Race discrimination claims, historically the most frequent, were the second-most commonly received complaint by the EEOC. They’ve hovered around 36 percent for years and last year represented 35.4 percent of the total charges.
(Note that a charge may contain multiple discrimination claims. The percentages represent the charges that include a specific discrimination claim.)
Retaliation claims may well continue to climb this fiscal year. Announcing a lawsuit earlier this month, an EEOC regional attorney in the New York office said, “We will pursue vigorously retaliation claims against employers whose managers would rather not comply with court orders and fire individuals who object to threats based on their religion and bias based on race.”
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Mintz Levin attorney Martha Zackin, discussing the retaliation charge statistics, bluntly declared, “Retaliation claims are here to stay.” ” Recent developments lead us to conclude that this trend will continue, in 2012 and beyond,” she said, citing Department of Labor retaliation guidance under the Fair Labor Standards and Family and Medical Leave acts.
After retaliation and race, sex, disability, and age charges ranked third, fourth, and fifth respectively. However, while charges of sex and race discrimination declined, age and disability claims increased over 2010.
The EEOC said that its enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act “produced the highest increase in monetary relief among all of the statutes: the administrative relief obtained for disability discrimination charges increased by almost 35.9 percent to $103.4 million compared to $76.1 million in the previous fiscal year. Back impairments were the most frequently cited impairment under the ADA, followed by other orthopedic impairments, depression, anxiety disorder and diabetes.”