Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released data on Charges of Discrimination filed with the agency in fiscal year 2009, which ended September 30. Over 93,000 Charges were filed with the agency, including a record number of claims against private sector employers. The EEOC attributed the increase in claims to the deteriorating economy, changing workplace demographics, and increased public awareness of rights and legal recourse.
Statistics on the types of discrimination claimed did not substantially change since FY 2008, with the exception of a significant bump in the number of claims of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This increase may be related to the expansion of the definition of protected disabled persons in the ADA Amendments Act.
Despite increased hiring and funding, this large number of charges has resulted in a continuation of the backlog and delays in investigation of claims by the EEOC. The sharp increase in claims over the past two years may represent a long-term trend. Employers should review their hiring, discipline, and especially their termination procedures to make sure that their decisions can be justified in the event of claims of illegal discrimination, harassment or retaliation.