The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its fiscal year 2014 private sector data detailing information regarding the 88,778 charges of discrimination it received. The EEOC's fiscal year (FY) ended September 30, 2014.
The five percent reduction from FY 2013 was attributed in part to the government shutdown. The shutdown occurred during the first quarter reducing charge filings by 3,000 to 5,000 compared to other quarters. Claimants recovered $75.9 million less when compared to the previous year.
Retaliation-based charges continued to be the most prevalent, accounting for nearly 43 percent of all charges filed. This is the sixth consecutive year retaliation charges have topped all other categories. Employers must recognize retaliation is unlawful, even when the initial complaint has no merit. Supervisory training must include this fact.
Race (35 percent), sex (29 percent), disability (29 percent) and age (23 percent) were the next most frequent charges. The percentages exceed 100 percent because many charges allege multiple bases; such as discrimination on the bases of race and age.
Harassment allegations accounted for 30 percent of the charges. Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is an EEOC priority. A special EEOC task force is developing strategies to correct and prevent harassment by identifying underlying problems in workplaces and industries where harassment recurs.
Training at all levels of employment was felt to be the best way to prevent harassment. Carol Miaskoff, Acting Associate Legal Counsel of the EEOC, testified that "having a policy is insufficient if it is not communicated understandably to the workforce."
Harassment training needs to be comprehensive. Long gone are the days of the narrow focus of sexual harassment. Racial, ethnic and harassment based on disability are too common today. Training and policies need to reflect that harassment of any kind is unlawful and inexcusable.
Even though discharge and discipline-related charges dropped three percent from FY 2013, employee termination was the most common issue among all bases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Supervisors need to practice well-documented disciplinary action. Training and documented equitable administration of discipline is required.
Allegations of discriminatory advertisements showed the biggest increase, from 49 to 121 claims, primarily age-related. Employers would be wise to have a second pair of eyes review all advertisements. Looking for someone with a skip in their step will trip you.
Employee testing during the selection process is not limited to personality tests, cognitive tests, physical ability examinations as well as background screens of credit and criminal histories. Employee testing was another area of increased claims.
Title VII prohibits disparate treatment and disparate impact. This means an employer may not pick and choose who to test. Different treatment based on race, age, national origin or any other base is illegal. Should the tests result in a disproportionate number of a protected class failing, that, too, may be unlawful. The employer must first show the test is job-related and consistent with business necessity and also offers the challenging person an opportunity to demonstrate a less discriminatory alternative.
Though it is important to be aware of the trends of EEOC claims; maintaining a healthy and respectful workplace should be every employer's focus.
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