eTrends - 2011 Was a Record-Breaking Year for EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced in its FY2011 Performance and Accountability Report ("PAR") that for its fiscal year 2011, it received a record high 99,947 charges of discrimination, the highest in its 46-year history.

The PAR confirms that the EEOC is focused on employer investigations that affect large numbers of job applicants and employees and characterizes this effort as "a top agency priority." Indeed, the PAR states that at the end of FY2011, the EEOC was working on 580 systemic investigations involving more than 2,000 charges – a significant increase over last year's figure of 468 such investigations. Further, EEOC field offices filed 261 merits lawsuits in FY2011 – 11 more than the previous year – which included 23 systemic suits that involved large numbers of workers.

Particularly noteworthy is the 10% decrease in the number of pending private sector charges – a reduction of 8,202 over FY2010 levels – to 78,136 pending charges, representing the first inventory reduction since FY2002. However, the EEOC failed to meet its goal of resolving 51% of charges within 180 days. This may signal a reluctance to grant employers extensions of time in 2012 to file a response to a discrimination charge.

Other significant findings include the fact that the EEOC's private sector administrative enforcement efforts recovered a record $364 million in monetary benefits, exceeding FY2010 recoveries by $45 million and the fact that the private sector national mediation program, deemed "a very successful part of [its] enforcement operations," obtained more than $170 million in funds, compared to the prior year's $141 million. Finally, the EEOC resolved 277 merits lawsuits in FY2011, recovering nearly $91 million for aggrieved parties. A breakdown of the types of discrimination alleged in these suits is as follows: Title VII claims: 215; ADA claims: 42; ADEA claims: 26; and EPA claims: 2.

Employers should expect that the EEOC will continue to pursue systemic investigations, encourage its investigators and local offices to process charges in 180 days or less, and emphasize its mediation program.

Please contact Susan Parrott with any questions.

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Smith Anderson publishes eTrends periodically as a service to clients and friends. The purpose of this eTrends is to provide general information about a significant legal development in the field of employment law. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary from one situation to another, so the conclusions stated herein may not be applicable to the reader’s particular circumstances.

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