EEOC Reaches Out and Charges of Employer Bias Increase
Private-sector workers filed a record number of discrimination charges against employers during 2010, an increase that the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ) attributed primarily to the government’s outreach to workers.
The number of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rose to nearly 100,000, up 7% from the year-earlier period and 21% from 2007.
The EEOC, which reported the increase based on the number of accusations filed with the agency, had a bigger budget and more staff in 2010.
“We are pleased to see that our rebuilding efforts are having an impact on how efficiently and effectively the Commission enforces the civil rights laws protecting the nation's workers," said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. "Discrimination continues to be a substantial problem for too many job seekers and workers, and we must continue to build our capacity to enforce the laws that ensure that workplaces are free of unlawful bias,” she said.
The EEOC also expanded its outreach to workers by providing educational training to approximately 250,000 workers.
Last year, the number of accusations of employer retaliation - allegations that an employer retaliated against an employee for complaining internally or with the EEOC - outnumbered racial-discrimination charges for the first time since the EEOC started operating in 1965.
John Sarno, president of EANJ, said retaliation claims in recent years have tended to fare better before juries and get higher settlements than complaints about underlying acts of discrimination.
Retaliation “is easier to prove,” he said.
The agency also saw a spike in allegations of disability discrimination, which Sarno and the EEOC attributed to legislation that made it easier for employees to establish that they are disabled.
Any marked increase in charges that could lead to litigation is a concern to small business owners, said Sarno. “Particularly now when the HR function is stressed or diminished at smaller employers, the increase in bias claims is a big problem,” he said.
EANJ offers a 7-part program for HR professionals that will help, Sarno said. “It only takes one big lawsuit to put one of these smaller firms out of business.”
For EANJ Advanced Discrimination Program click here.