On Friday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its charge-filing statistics for fiscal year 2019, which began October 1, 2018 and ended September 30, 2019. Overall, the Commission received 72,675 charges of discrimination in FY19, down from 76,418 in 2018. Not surprisingly, retaliation charges continued to make up a majority of claims at 39,110 or 53.8%. Compared to other employment discrimination claims, retaliation claims enjoy a lower standard of proof requiring a complainant to allege only a reasonable belief of protected activity followed by “materially” adverse action, rather than ultimate employment action based on protected status.
Disability (33.4%), race (33%), and sex (32.4%) claims competed for second, followed by age (21.4%), national origin (9.6%), color (4.7%), and religion (3.7%). As in years past, less than 2% of filed charges were based on Equal Pay Act and GINA allegations.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws, and employees must first “exhaust” claims at the agency level by filing a charge of discrimination before suing in court. Importantly, the Commission data does not include charges filed with state or local equal employment opportunity agencies that enjoy work sharing agreements with the federal agency. It remains to be seen whether charges filed at the State and local levels will show an opposite trend in light of recent amendments to Maryland law that expanded protections for employees (now including independent contractors) and significantly extended time periods to file charges of discrimination, and sue in court, for claims alleging harassment. More information about those changes can be found here.