At the beginning of every new year, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) releases a report detailing how many charges of workplace discrimination were filed with them in the previous year. For 2016, that number totaled 97,443, which means that 2016 was the second year in a row that the number of workplace discrimination charges filed has increased.
The report includes details on 91,503 of those cases, but in totality the agency resolved 97,443 cases, providing $482 million in compensation to victims as a result of their litigation efforts as well as voluntary agreements. The environments represented in this number include both public and private sector workplaces. The cases that have been resolved represent tremendous progress, though there is still a heavy workload that needs to be addressed. There are still 73,508 cases pending – a daunting workload, but one that is lower than any seen in the last few years.
The EEOC’s level of activity has continued to rise over the past few years, and so has the level of detail that they provide on the charges that they are handling. The agency’s toll free phone number received over half a million calls this year, and the field offices got another 160,000 calls for service or assistance. This included 1,650 LGBT cases that resulted in $4.4 million recovered for sex discrimination cases.
Though the agency is encouraged by the fact that so many victims are seeking help, they are disheartened by the continuing discrimination that they see. According to EEOC Chair Jenny Yang, “EEOC advances opportunity for all of America’s workers and plays a critical role in help in employers build stronger workplaces. 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.”
The EEOC handles numerous types of calls and charges of discrimination. In 2016 retaliation was the complaint that they heard most frequently, though they also answered complaints about discrimination based on race, disability, sex, age, national origin, religion, color and genetic information. The agency’s responses included hundreds of lawsuits, with some filed on behalf of individuals and others representing groups of victims experiencing discriminatory policies. Going into 2017 the agency already has a full plate, with 168 active cases. It is hoped that the EEOC’s record of successfully pursuing justice on behalf of victims of discrimination will continue and improve: for 2016 they won 90.6 percent of the suits they were involved in.