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Workplace Discrimination Complaints Soaring

Since the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008, American workers have filed record numbers of discrimination complaints with the federal government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that the all-time peak came in 2011 with nearly 100,000 complaints filed. However, that figure was only slightly higher than the number filed in 2010.

Although the timing of the surge in discrimination complaints suggests there might be a correlation with the economic downturn, the agency says there is no hard data to support the theory. Another possible reason for the surge is that the agency has been working hard to inform workers of their rights and has made it easier for employees to get information online about how to fill out complaint forms.

According to the EEOC, the largest number of people — more than a third — reported racial discrimination. Nearly 30% of the complaints were about sex discrimination, while about one-fourth of the complaints filed listed age as a factor. Some people reported that they were victims of more than one type of discrimination.

Of all of the complaints resolved by the EEOC in 2011, however, less than one out of five was found to have merit. Most of these workers received a monetary settlement from the companies involved. Another 16% of the cases were closed because the workers did not respond to further inquiries from the agency. Two-thirds of the cases were found to have no merit.

Experts in the field suggest that many complaints are inappropriately filed because workers do not know what constitutes a legitimate discrimination complaint. Many of those that do have merit could have been avoided had both management and workers been given proper training about how to prevent discrimination and harassment on the job. 

Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: workplace discrimination

ACC Alliance Partner
Thomson Reuters