As many employers are aware, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is a federal agency tasked with enforcing certain federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and/or genetic information. The EEOC performs two primary functions: administrative enforcement and private litigation. As part of its administrative enforcement function, the EEOC “receives, investigates, and resolves charges of employment discrimination filed.” If, however, a charge is not resolved at the administrative enforcement stage, the EEOC may file a lawsuit against the employer.
At the end of each fiscal year, the EEOC releases data detailing what it has accomplished during the past year relative to its administrative and litigation functions. Recently, the EEOC disclosed that in fiscal year 2016, a total of 91,503 charges of workplace discrimination were filed. For the second year in a row, the total amount of EEOC charges filed increased from the previous year. The five most prevalent charges filed alleged retaliation (42,018, or 45.9%) and discrimination based on race (32,309 or 35.3%), disability (28,073 or 30.7%), sex (26,934, or 29.4%), and age (20,857 or 22.8%).
Notwithstanding the uptick in EEOC filings, the EEOC was able to reduce the amount of charges currently pending at the organization by 3.8% to 73,508. This reduction is, in part, attributable to the fact that the EEOC was able to resolve 97,443 previously pending charges, which resulted in a total recovery of $482 million for aggrieved individuals.
Moreover, for the first time in 2016, the EEOC disclosed data in its year end summary relating to sex discrimination charges filed by LGBT individuals. Specifically, the EEOC disclosed that it resolved 1,650 LGBT-related sex discrimination charges in 2016, and, in the process, recovered $4.4 million dollars for the aggrieved individuals. For a frame of reference, between fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2016, almost 4,000 charges of sex discrimination were filed with the EEOC by LGBT individuals, resulting in a total recovery of $10.8 million.
In addition to its administrative function, in 2016, EEOC lawyers resolved 139 lawsuits, and filed an additional 86 lawsuits involving allegations of discrimination. The EEOC currently has 168 active litigation cases. It remains to be seen whether the EEOC will maintain its current pace of filing lawsuits against employers in fiscal year 2017.
 The remaining claims filed were for national origin, religion and color discrimination, followed by claims for violations of the Equal Pay Act and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.