The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that private sector discrimination charge filings are at an all-time high, soaring to 99,922 in the year ending September 30th from 93,277 the previous year.
But the record high increase also set another record in that, for the first time ever, retaliation surpassed race as the most frequently filed charge. The New York Times says that “the Obama administrations growing reputation of greater interest in discrimination cases than its predecessor may have also increased filings. But experts say the chief reason for the increase in accusations of prejudice is most likely tied to the broad layoffs of the last few years.”
EEOC chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien said, “Discrimination continues to be a substantial problem for too many job seekers and workers.” But Michael Burkhardt, an employment partner with Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius who represents employers in class-action discrimination suits said that “the majority of the time, the EEOC is still finding no reasonable cause for the charges being filed. In some cases, people were just upset that they were terminated, and they happen to be in a protected category. Even if that has nothing to do with why they were terminated, they still file a charge.”
Many workers are saying that they believe that a bad job market can bring out the prejudicial side of employers, who may be overly selective in choosing employees since so many people are applying.
Ron Cooper, a former general counsel of the EEOC said “There’s nothing that stimulates employment litigation like a bad economy. People who have lost their jobs are a whole lot more likely to think about bringing a lawsuit than people who continue to be employed.”
The EEOC secured $404 million from employers last year – the most ever in the agency’s forty-five year history – to promote discrimination-free work places.