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2014: Free Fallin’ EEOC Charges?

Earlier this morning, the EEOC released their charge filing statistics for 2014. For the fourth consecutive year, the number of EEOC charges has dropped – from 93,727 to 88,778. The chart below illustrates the decline and puts the numbers into perspective heading back to the good ol’ days of the 20th Century: EEOC1 Does it feel like 2007? Well, that’s about where we stand with respect to the overall number of charges filed in the last year. The reason for the decline is unclear, but looking at the graph, it likely is due to an improving economy and increased employment numbers. Note how the charges on the graph track the ebb and flow of the overall economy – during recessions such as in 2001 and particularly 2008, the numbers spike upwards, but then diminish as the economy improves. Drilling down to the specific types of charges filed in 2014, the numbers show that the trends of the last few years are holding steady. The chart below highlights some commonly litigated claims. As is no surprise, retaliation again remains the most frequently filed charge, as they seem to accompany every other charge that is filed, even though the absolute numbers of retaliation claims also appear to have leveled off (as have disability claims); while at the same time claims involving race, sex and age discrimination have continued to drop. EEOC2 The EEOC also published the number of charges it received last year by state. The greatest number of charges were filed in Texas, followed by Florida and then California. While these trends overall are good for employers, there are some notes of caution. For one, the number of retaliation claims continues to outpace all others – meaning that employers need to take special care to make sure that they prohibit retaliation and that this prohibition actually is followed in practice. Additionally, the EEOC’s press release points out that 30 percent of the charges filed in the last year alleged some form of harassment, including harassment based on race, sex and disability. In real terms, this comes to 26,820 charges and is greater than the number of charges alleging age and disability discrimination. Unsurprisingly, the EEOC notes that taking steps to curb harassment will be a priority for the Commission in the coming year. Accordingly, employers would do well to remain vigilant and make sure that they have appropriate mechanisms in place to address discrimination, harassment and retaliation issues before they become problems and wind up being included on the EEOC’s annual list.


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