Every year, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides data outlining the charges of workplace discrimination that it receives, the number of suits it filed and resolved along with monetary recovery for the charge claimants, and its particular area of investigative or compliance focus for the next year. Recently, EEOC released its Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement and Litigation Data summarizing its 2016 efforts and its 2017 focus.
EEOC's 2016 data indicates that it received 91,503 charges of discrimination, the second consecutive year that EEOC has seen an increase in its total charges filed. 2016 is also the third consecutive year in which charges of Retaliation are the most frequently filed or pursued class of charge. Nationally, there were 10,000 more charges of Retaliation filed than the next closest claim of Discrimination, which was Race. Disability was the third most common basis for charges of Discrimination.
For the 2016 Fiscal Year, EEOC included details on Gender Discrimination charges filed or pursued specifically by members of the LGBT community. In 2016, EEOC resolved 1,650 charges in this category, recovering a reported $4.4 Million. These charges and recovery account for approximately 40% of the over 4,000 gender discrimination charges pursued by LGBT individuals over the course of the last three fiscal years. This trend indicates a rise in the number of charges filed and pursued by the LGBT community and a particular focus by EEOC on that issue. An interesting trend for the next several years will be whether the change in White House policy does anything to impact EEOC's continued focus on LGBT issues.
EEOC, despite its overall increase in charges, reported a net decrease in both monetary awards and litigation. EEOC recovered approximately $482 Million for charge claimants in Fiscal Year 2016, measurably down from the $525 Million EEOC recovered in Fiscal Year 2015. Of the $482 Million in recovery, $347.9 Million was recovered or paid through mediation, conciliation, and settlements, while $52.2 Million was recovered through litigation. At present, EEOC seems to be consciously reducing its use of litigation and had only 165 active cases on its docket at the end of Fiscal 2016 as opposed to the 218 that it was handling at the end of 2015. Further, EEOC filed only 86 new Discrimination suits in 2016, a reduction of 57 from the 142 filed in 2015.
Two new initiatives merit special attention with respect to EEOC efforts in 2017. The first of which is EEOC's launch of an electronic charge filing system that allows employers and charging parties to send and receive documents electronically, check the status of pending charges online, and communicate electronically with EEOC. This move is intended to streamline the charge process and reduce the overload of paper and phone communication that often delays EEOC charge handling. A second area of focus for EEOC is in the area of employer-sponsored wellness plans. EEOC has issued new regulations and interpretative guidance outlining the limited financial and other incentives that an employer may provide to its employees participating in a sponsored wellness plan. Of particular concern for EEOC is disability related issues or medical examinations that may be required as part of a sponsored wellness program.
Should you or anyone in your sphere of influence have employment law related matters, receive a Charge of Discrimination from EEOC, or be considering implementing a Wellness Plan, please do not hesitate to contact Brian R. Redden or Robert G. Hyland at Buechner Haffer Meyers & Koenig for advice and direction in this ever changing area of the law.