Protecting Your Business – Top 10 Workplace Discrimination Claims

Written by Joanna Morrow

Joanna Morrow, Principal and Founder of Employer Benefits & Advice, is an employer consultant and advocate who has worked in the employee benefits industry for over two decades. She works diligently to help employers overcome obstacles in their business by sharing her expertise in Human Resources, Benefits & Compensation, Process Mapping, Risk Management and ERISA/DOL/IRS compliance. She is a licensed life and health insurance professional in the State of Arizona and is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Protecting Your Business – Top 10 Workplace Discrimination Claims

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law.

In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resolved more than 90,000 workplace discrimination claims—securing more than $525 million from employers in the private and public sectors as a result of these claims. Discrimination lawsuits can be very time-consuming and expensive for employers, and can result in a loss of employee morale or reputation within the community. Specifically, retaliation lawsuits are on the rise. Don’t get caught. Learn to protect yourself.

The deadline for the Employer Information Report, otherwise known as the EEO-1 Report, was required to be submitted and certified by September 30, 2016. In view of this deadline, I thought it might be timely to share the top 10 workplace discrimination claims filed last year.

Top 10 Workplace Discrimination Claims

According to the EEOC, the following are the top 10 reasons for workplace discrimination claims in fiscal year 2015:

    1. Retaliation—39,757 (44.5% of all charges filed)
    2. Race—31,027 (34.7%)
    3. Disability—26,968 (30.2%)
    4. Sex—26,396 (29.5%)
    5. Age—20,144 (22.5%)
    6. National origin—9,438 (10.6%)
    7. Religion—3,502 (3.9%)
    8. Color—2,833 (3.2%)
    9. Equal Pay Act—973 (1.1%)
    10. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act—257 (0.3%)

These percentages add up to more than 100% because some lawsuits were filed alleging multiple reasons for discrimination.

Retaliation Lawsuits on the Rise

Retaliation lawsuits are brought after an employee alleges an employer has fired, demoted, harassed or otherwise retaliated against him or her for filing a charge of discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Retaliation claims are the most frequently filed charge of discrimination—growing nearly 5% in 2015.

The number of retaliation lawsuits will continue to rise due to new regulations finalized by the EEOC in August, 2016. The revisions made to workplace retaliation guidelines make it easier for employees to pursue retaliation charges by expanding the view of what constitutes actionable retaliation. You can read a simplified version of the guidance here.

What Employers Should Do

Employers should take the following steps to protect themselves from retaliation and other discrimination claims:

  • Audit their practices to uncover any problematic situations and practices.
  • Create a clear anti-retaliation policy that includes specific examples of what management can and cannot do when disciplining or terminating employees.
  • Provide training to management and employees on anti-retaliation and other discrimination policies.
  • Implement a user-friendly internal complaint procedure for employees.
  • Uphold a standard of workplace civility, which can reduce retaliatory behaviors.

For more information on discrimination claims and for tips on how to protect your business, contact my office at 602-903-4047.