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EEOC won $484 million for workers in 2017, cut backlog

Published on November 9, 2017

New York — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won nearly $500 million for workers in fiscal year 2017 and reduced its inventory of unresolved discrimination charges to its lowest level in a decade, the agency said Thursday, giving a sampling of data from a report due out next week.

The agency said it won $484 million in the last fiscal year. It also resolved 99,109 charges to bring its total charge workload down to 61,621 at the end of September, compared with resolving 97,443 charges to bring its workload down to 73,508 charges at the same time last year, it said.

EEOC acting chair Victoria Lipnic said in a statement Thursday the agency made “addressing the backlog a priority.”

“The pending inventory of private sector charges … has been a longstanding issue for the EEOC and the public it serves,” Lipnic said.

Lipnic added the agency reduced its backlog in part by sharing effective case resolution strategies among its offices “while ensuring we are capturing charges with merit.”

The $484 million total includes $355.6 million secured for private sector and state workers through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement and another $42.4 million secured through litigation. The agency also won $86 million for federal employees and job applicants, it said.

The agency fielded 540,000 phone calls and more than 155,000 contacts with its field offices in fiscal year 2017, with 84,254 new charges filed. It did not break these charges down into types of discrimination alleged on Thursday.

It filed 184 lawsuits in fiscal year 2017, more than double the 86 suits it filed in the same period a year ago, according to a January release. Of those, 124 included individual claims, 30 alleged non-systemic discrimination against multiple individuals and 30 alleged systemic discrimination. The suits include allegations that workers at a California Chipotle locked a coworker in a freezer after he reported their boss for sexual harassment, and that Time Warner Cable violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing an account executive with cancer.

On the outreach front, the agency said its educational programs reached 317,000 people across more than 4,000 free events in fiscal year 2017.

The agency also revamped its online offerings, updating a youth-oriented area of its website, launching a resource center aimed at educating small business owners on their legal responsibilities, and rolling out a new online charge reporting system.

The EEOC announced in March that it would start taking initial inquiries and requests for intake interviews online in five cities. The agency rolled the program out nationwide earlier this month, with Lipnic saying at the time she hoped it would “make the EEOC much more accessible to the public.”

The agency said Thursday it will release additional data in its fiscal year 2017 Performance and Accountability Report, which will be available on its website on Nov. 15. The agency will release comprehensive statistics for fiscal year 2017 in January.

Disclaimer: This website post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not rely upon this information as a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal concern, you should seek legal advice from an attorney.

EEOC issues 2017 performance report

Published on November 16, 2017 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made significant progress in managing the pending inventory of charges during fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the agency reported in its annual Performance and Accountability Report published on Nov. 15.

EEOC offices deployed new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit and more quickly resolve investigations once the agency had sufficient information. Together with improvements in the agency’s digital systems, these strategies produced an increase in charge resolutions and a significant decrease in charge inventory.  As a result, in fiscal year 2017 the EEOC resolved 99,109 charges and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years.  Additionally, during the fiscal year, the EEOC handled over 540,000 calls to the toll-free number and more than 155,000 contacts about possible charge filing in field offices, resulting in 84,254 charges being filed.

“The pending inventory of private sector charges (the backlog) has been a longstanding issue for the EEOC and the public it serves,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “Early in the calendar year, we made addressing the backlog a priority. A primary point of this effort was to share strategies among our offices that have been particularly effective in dealing with the pending inventory, while ensuring we are capturing charges with merit. I thank EEOC’s employees for their work and congratulate them on this progress.”

Other fiscal year 2017 highlights include:

The EEOC secured approximately $484 million for victims of discrimination in the workplace. This includes $355.6 million in monetary relief for those who work in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement, and $42.4 million in monetary relief for charging parties through litigation. The EEOC also secured $86 million in monetary relief for federal employees and applicants.  Importantly, in each of these categories, the agency obtained substantial changes to discriminatory practices to remedy violations of equal employment opportunity laws and prevent future discriminatory conduct.

In fiscal year 2017, the EEOC filed 184 merits lawsuits, including 124 suits on behalf of individuals, 30 non-systemic suits with multiple victims, and 30 systemic suits. This is more than double the number of suits filed in fiscal year 2016. Additionally, EEOC’s legal staff resolved 109 merits lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $42.4 million and achieved a favorable result in 91 percent of all district court resolutions.  In addition, a number of very significant suits were successfully resolved.

The agency’s outreach programs reached 317,000 people during the year through participation in more than 4,000 no-cost educational, training and outreach events. The EEOC continued to promote the online Small Business Resource Center to provide a one-stop shop to help small businesses easily access information about employer responsibilities. The Small Business Administration Ombudsman’s Report again gave EEOC an “A” rating for responsiveness to small business concerns.

On the technology front, the agency further enhanced its online capabilities for the public and made internal operational improvements. For the public, the EEOC advanced its online services by way of a pilot program which allowed individuals in five EEOC offices to submit inquiries online, schedule interviews, and submit and receive charge information.  This pilot led to the nationwide launch of the EEOC Public Portalin November 2017. Internally, the agency replaced many paper procedures with more efficient online tools.

In our federal sector program, the agency resolved 6,661 hearings complaints and secured more than $72.7 million in relief for federal employees. EEOC also resolved 4,284 appeals of agency decisions on federal sector complaints, a 14 percent increase over the previous year, including 47.3 percent of them within 180 days of receipt, and secured more than $13.3 million in relief. Our federal program also reduced its pending inventory of appeals by 11 percent to 3,658 the lowest level in nine years.

EEOC’s fiscal year 2017 Performance and Accountability Report is posted on the agency’s web site at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2017par.pdf. Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2017 will be available on the agency’s website in January 2018.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

Disclaimer: This website post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not rely upon this information as a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal concern, you should seek legal advice from an attorney.

Sharp spike in EEOC lawsuits

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 5, 2017.


Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as Co-Chair of the Firm’s Labor & Employment practice group. She represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters.

By Phillips Murrah Director Byrona J. Maule

Fall is a time of change. But this fall, the transition from summer isn’t the only change we’re experiencing. This fall has also brought extraordinary action from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Starting in July, the EEOC has filed a flurry of federal lawsuits against both private and public employers.

In July 2017, the EEOC filed 20 lawsuits, compared to eight in July 2016, according to EEOC.gov’s announcements. At first, I thought this was some type of anomaly, but it continued into August 2017 with another 20 lawsuits filed, compared to eight last August. In September, they filed a whopping 69 lawsuits, as opposed to 22 in September 2016. To date, the EEOC has filed 241 lawsuits in 2017, compared to 86 in all of 2016. With three months left in 2017, there is no reason to believe the rest of 2017 will trend any differently.

Other changes in the EEOC’s activity include an inclination to file suit against an employer in a single plaintiff case, as opposed to lawsuits in which the outcome would have a broad impact on society. The EEOC’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan emphasized using litigation mechanisms to identify and attack discriminatory policies and other instances of systemic discrimination. This emphasis seems to have waned.

Considering the life cycle of an EEOC lawsuit from charge to the EEOC’s decision to file a lawsuit takes multiple years, this sharp spike in the number of merit lawsuits being filed does not indicate that workplace behavior has drastically changed in recent months. Rather, the change appears to be in the decision-making process of the EEOC when deciding if it is going to file a lawsuit and what types of lawsuits the EEOC pursues. In one recent case involving Home Depot, the EEOC filed charges despite the company’s position it had reached agreement with the EEOC on the major terms of a settlement.

What does it all mean? It is difficult to know at this point. The real significance for employers is there are significantly more lawsuits being brought by the EEOC in 2017 than at any time between 2012 and 2016. Employers need to be very aware of this, and approach EEOC charges with increased attention.

Byrona J. Maule is a partner and co-chair of the labor and employment practice group at Oklahoma City-based law firm Phillips Murrah.