Employment Law Update

On January 11, 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) reported that the filing of Charges alleging discrimination and/or retaliation with the federal agency nationwide hit an unprecedented level of 99,922 during fiscal year (FY) 2010, which ended Sept. 30, 2010.  While the number of Charges have increased, the EEOC reports that the amount of pending Charges has only increased approximately 1%, meaning that the EEOC is processing Charges more efficiently.  The Miami District Office of the EEOC has seen such an increase in Charges, that it has been transferring claims to the EEOC’s San Juan, Puerto Rico office for investigation.

According to the 2010 data released by the EEOC, all major categories of charge filings in the private sector increased.1 These include charges alleging discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Equal Pay Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Fiscal year 2010 marks the first time that the EEOC was enforcing the GINA, and received 201 charges under this statute.  Under Title II of GINA, it is illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information.2 Genetic information includes information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual’s family members (i.e. family medical history).3

Also, in 2010, for the first time ever, the EEOC reported that retaliation claims under all statutes surpassed race discrimination claims as the most frequently filed Charge.  Historically, race had been the most frequently filed charge since the EEOC became operational in 1965.  This is important, as retaliation charges can be some of the most difficult charges to defend.

The 2010 year-data also showed that the EEOC filed 250 lawsuits.4 Moreover, the EEOC secured the highest level of monetary relief ever obtained in any given fiscal year, over $404 million in monetary benefits from employers, through its combined enforcement, mediation and litigation programs.  The mediation program showed particular gains, ending the year with a record 9,370 resolutions, which is an increase of 10% from 2009.

Federal and state employment laws are unique and complex.  Employees are filing EEOC Charges in record numbers.  Thus, it is important for employers to be knowledgeable about the substantive law, while remaining proactive as to preventing such claims from being filed.  Employers should ensure that they have internal policies in place to deal with claims of discrimination.  Management training is also an essential element of prevention.

1              www.eooc.gov.

2              42 U.S.C. § 2000ff.

3              Id.

4              www.eooc.gov.

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