On February 26, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released the Fiscal Year 2020 Enforcement and Litigation Data.  Surprisingly, the numbers were lower than preceding years, and 2020 marked the lowest number of charges filed in over 20 years.

The EEOC received 67,448 charges of workplace discrimination in FY 2020, down roughly 7% from 2019, when the Commission received 72,675 charges of discrimination. In drastic contrast, the agency received 99,992 charges in 2010.  You can find a table summary of charge statistics from FY 1997 through 2020 here: https://www.eeoc.gov/statistics/charge-statistics-charges-filed-eeoc-fy-1997-through-fy-2020.

Retaliation in violation of employment-related statutes remains the most common box checked on the EEOC charges, comprising 55.8 percent of all charges filed.  This is historically consistent because it is often included as part of a larger claim of discrimination based on other protected classes and activities.  Disability claims were the second highest, at 36.1 percent.  The report also summarizes the remaining categories of charges filed and can be found here: https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-releases-fiscal-year-2020-enforcement-and-litigation-data.

Despite the trends, employers should not relax their standards based on these improved statistics.  The downward slope of agency charges does not promise a continued decline going forward.  For example, we may expect a rise in claims under the Americans with Disability Act due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and claims of retaliation arising out of workplace safety complaints. Employers are also experiencing a rise in wrongful termination claims brought by those who have been terminated for refusal to comply with company safety protocols or for refusal to return to work in the first place. As employers consider vaccination and return to work protocols, it is critical to comply with recognized exceptions for disabilities under the ADA, medical conditions, including pregnancy, and religious exemptions under Title VII. To avoid such claims, we recommend consulting with counsel to ensure a smooth return to work, not litigation.

Jaime L. Duguay defends employers in all facets of employment law. She is licensed in Georgia and New York and her admissions to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars are pending. Jaime can be reached directly at (215) 461-3314 or  jduguay@nullohaganmeyer.com.

Written by: Jaime L. Duguay, Esq.