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3 Key Takeaways from the EEOC 2016 Report

On Nov. 15, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its Fiscal Year 2016 Performance Report. According to the report, the agency amassed more than $482.1 million for victims of discrimination, saw a reduction in the number of cases filed, and increased the number of discrimination charges resolved.

Here are further details on those three important matters.

1. Workplace Discrimination

Of more than $482.1 million collected for discrimination victims in private workplaces and in federal, state and local government agencies, the funds break down as follows:

  • $347.9 million – secured via settlements, mediation and conciliation – for discrimination victims in private companies and state and local government agencies
  • $52.2 million – secured through legal action – for discrimination victims
  • $82 million for federal employees and job applicants

In FY 2016, which ended Sept. 30, the EEOC placed significant emphasis on investigations to address systemic discrimination, which the agency defines as “a pattern or practice, policy, or class case where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic area.” Under Section 707 of Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), the EEOC has the authority to file lawsuits based on “pattern or practice” against employers.

The EEOC also resolved 273 systemic investigations and 21 systemic lawsuits, recovering over $58.3 million (included in the $482.1 million total) for victims of discrimination.

2. Filings Decreased

The number of cases filed by the EEOC dropped sharply, from 142 in FY 2015 to 86 in FY 2016. The lawsuits included 58 individual cases and 29 cases involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies. By the end of FY 2016, the agency had 165 cases that were still active, compared to 218 active cases in FY 2015.

3. Resolutions Increased

In FY 2016, the EEOC staff resolved 97,443 discrimination charges, 6.5 percent more than in FY 2015. As a result, the agency reduced its pending-charges workload by 3.8 percent to 73,503, the lowest amount in three years. The EEOC also responded to more than 585,000 calls to its toll-free number and some 160,000 queries in field offices, indicating substantial demand remains for its services.

What This Means for Employers

The EEOC repeatedly has identified its systemic program as a top enforcement initiative. According to a Society for Human Resource Management article on the report, employers should be aware of the increased likelihood – nearly 40 percent – of a reasonable cause finding when undergoing a systemic investigation.

Employers should refrain from employment and hiring practices that violate protected classes, such as race, gender, national origin, religion and color – which were the top five types of discrimination charges last year. The article noted that the EEOC likely will pay considerably more attention to pay discrimination going forward, so it’s essential that employers adhere to equal pay laws.