Monday, November 2, 2009

EEOC and State Agencies Surge

Corporate Counsel featured an article today by Tresa Baldas, Employers Under Siege: Discrimination Complaints Flooding into EEOC. The article details a surge in discrimination claims filed with the EEOC in 2008, up 28% from 2007. Of course, readers of this blog already knew that (if you don't like numbers, I even made a picture... well, a chart of EEOC claims data.) Retaliation claims are also up 22%.

The article provides some nice insight into 2009 to tide us over until the final numbers are available. For example,
"Deborah Barno, the supervisory trial attorney in the Detroit EEOC office, not[ed] that the jobless are seeking legal redress like never before. 'Our lobby is full every day, and mailed-in charges are increasing even more.'"
Detroit is now showing a 25% increase in the number of complaints pending compared to 2007.

State agencies provide evidence of surging claims as well:
"[T]he number of charges filed with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission has so overwhelmed the agency that it has publicly called for mediation to help reduce the backlog . . . . The Michigan Department of Civil Rights says age discrimination complaints have increased 77% during the past three years, from 703 in 2005 to 1,245 in 2008. And the Florida Commission on Human Relations reports that employment discrimination complaints in the last fiscal year were up 30% from the previous year."
Those are some pretty big numbers. I will note that the three states cited (Tennessee, Michigan, and Florida) all have seasonally adjusted unemployment rates above 10%.

The article concludes by comparing the surge in claims to a "gathering storm." The idea being that there is a lag, caused by the EEOC review process, between EEOC complaints and lawsuits. Based on this theory, employers should batten down the hatches.