The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its findings for 2015 regarding the tens of thousands of charges of private-sector workplace discrimination filed by workers, employees, and other covered individuals in 2015. Retaliation charges were the most frequently filed charge accounting for 45 percent of the total number of charges, which increased from 88,778 in 2014 to 89,365 in 2015.
Although current charge numbers remain high from a decade ago, they are still not a record for such filings. Retaliation claims, as a percentage of total EEOC charges, have grown every year since 2002 including five percent from 2014 to 2015. Retaliation may be the easiest allegation to assert as it is often difficult for employers to prove that a complaint of discrimination and adverse action are unrelated. The EEOC filed 142 merits lawsuits in 2015, which is a 6.7% increase from 2014 when 133 were filed.
Looking at West Virginia in 2014, the most recent year state statistics are available from the EEOC, a total number of 153 charges were filed in our state. Retaliation was the second most frequently filed charge with fifty-two (52), which was 34 % of all state charges. This was an increase of thirteen from 2013. Since 2009, retaliation claims filed in West Virginia have actually followed a pattern of rising then falling in consecutive years, which is a departure from the national trend.
Disability was the leading discrimination claim in West Virginia as sixty-eight (68) charges were filed in 2014. Nationally, disability charges increased by six percent from 2014 to 2015 and are the third largest category of charges filed.
Top 10 Charges – The charge numbers show the following breakdowns by bases alleged (note that the percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases):
- Retaliation: 39,757 (44.5% of all charges filed)
- Race: 31,027 (34.7%)
- Disability: 26,968 (30.2%)
- Sex: 26,396 (29.5%)
- Age: 20,144 (22.5%)
- National Origin: 9,438 (10.6%)
- Religion: 3,502 (3.9%)
- Color: 2,833 (3.2%)
- Equal Pay Act: 973 (1.1%)
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 257 (0.3%)
Employers must prepare themselves for the increasing risk of having retaliation charges filed against them. To ensure that your company adequately addresses these active issues, please call Amy Crossan, an expert in employment law, for a consultation at 304-523-8451.