The EEOC recently published its fiscal year 2010 FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report. Given the state of the economy, its findings are not all that surprising. The EEOC reported a record number of discrimination charge filings, 99,922, its highest total in the agency’s 45-year history. What is surprising, however, is what the EEOC is doing with all these charges—it’s closing files.
Despite the record number of filings, the EEOC resolved 104,999 charges, leaving it with an inventory of 86,338 at the end of its fiscal year. While that number seems high, it’s less than a 1% increase from the end of FY 2009. By way of contrast, the EEOC’s pending inventory increased nearly 16% from FY 2008 to FY 2009. In other words, the EEOC is resolving cases—whether by mediation and settlement, litigation, or dismissals and right to sue letters.
This surge in charge receipts is due in part to the expanded statutory authorities that EEOC has been given with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008; the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008; and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (the Ledbetter Act). We also attribute the rise in charge receipts to EEOC becoming more accessible, making charge filing easier and providing better, more responsive customer service. Our internal Intake Information Group expanded the agency’s availability by phone and e-mail. Additionally, in the last four years, the EEOC has concentrated on revamping its charge intake services, expanding walk-in hours, and issuing a plain language brochure to assist potential charging parties in understanding their rights and the EEOC charge process. Individuals can now contact the agency by phone, by mail, by e-mail, by going to the EEOC website, or by visiting EEOC field offices.
These record filings have resulted in record recoveries. In FY 2010, the EEOC secured more than $319.3 million for more than 18,898 people through administrative enforcement activities—mediation, settlements, conciliations, and withdrawals with benefits. This figure represents the highest level of monetary relief ever obtained by the Commission, and a $25.2 million increase from FY 2009. Of this record recovery, $85 million came from the resolution of 285 lawsuits brought by the EEOC.
What does all this mean for employers? The EEOC is no longer an agency where charges go to die. Employers can expect more thorough investigations, quicker resolutions, and more aggressive enforcement. If you are charged with discrimination with the EEOC, you should take it seriously; the EEOC is.