Employment discrimination claims encompass a variety of alleged illegal behaviors that, if successfully prosecuted in court, can result in tens of thousands (or even millions) of dollars in economic damages, as reported by the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Welch Consulting is a national leader in analyzing labor and employment discrimination claims; our experts have years of experience defending major employment discrimination charges that are brought against employers throughout the United States.

In the interest of educating our clients (and whoever else may be interested in learning more about this topic), Welch Consulting has compiled a list of the top categories of employment discrimination and related claims among the 72,675 charges of workplace discrimination reported to the EEOC in Fiscal Year 2019. In this article, we examine the three largest claim areas, and in a future article, will discuss the fourth through sixth most recently-published tabulations of discriminatory complaints.

Retaliation

As of FY 2019 reported data, retaliation claims tied to alleged discrimination were the most- reported type of discrimination charge, with about 39,110 instances, comprising 53.8% of all charges. Retaliation claims can be related to any form of earlier acts of alleged discrimination; most frequently–due to workplace circumstances specific to immediate supervisors, or persons charged with enforcing company policies–claims are individual in nature (rather than involving class-wide claims).

It is against federal law for an employer, or any agent acting for an employer, to retaliate against an employee for complaining about alleged unfair treatment that he or she believes stems from discrimination in the workplace, whether that complaint relates to an employee’s race, gender, age, national origin, or any other characteristic protected under the law. Any employer action that follows soon after an employee’s original complaint and that appears punitive, or to adversely impact the employee’s career, may sow the seeds of a future retaliation complaint.

Employers must be circumspect when deciding to alter an employee’s career path when the employee has earlier reported that he or she has been the victim of workplace discrimination. It is critically important that the company investigate all such claims, and document non-discriminatory reasons (and supporting evidence) for past employment decisions that may only appear to have resulted from alleged discrimination. On the other hand, appropriate steps must be taken, consistent with company policies, to address workplace retaliation whenever evidence suggests that discriminatory animus is the reason for the retaliatory action.

Disability

Based on its counts from FY 2019, the EEOC lists disability-based discrimination as the agency’s second-most reported type of employment discrimination, at more than 24,238 reported cases, or 33.4%. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 outlaws discriminating against people with disabilities in any aspect of public life.

In the context of the workplace, an employer cannot treat an employee or an applicant unfairly because he or she has any kind of disability. Similar to sexual discrimination in the workplace, disability discrimination can encompass allegations in hiring, termination, compensation, benefits, and any other area of employment. In fact, employers must also provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees with disabilities to allow them to perform their jobs at the same standards as employees without disabilities. For instance, an employer must provide braille materials to blind employees if this is the only accommodation needed for a blind employee to succeed.

It is worth noting that employers must comply only with reasonable requests–ones that would not cause an undue financial burden on the company; it is not a reasonable request for an employee with a disability to ask an employer to eliminate basic job functions, the absence of which would adversely affect a company’s performance, in order to accommodate him or her.

Race

According to the EEOC’s FY 2019 data, the third-most-common type of claimed discrimination in the workplace—involving 23,976 charges, or 33.0%—is race-based. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on race.

Allegations of racial discrimination arise from an employee’s belief that he or she is being treated unfairly, in any way, based on his or her race. Race discrimination charges are often brought on the basis of companywide outcomes—for example, a disparity in the rates of hiring, promotion, termination, or any other employment area wherein statistical under-representation on the basis of race seems to appear. However, allegations need not be company-wide; they can also be made at the individual or group level—for example, claims that a supervisor promotes only white employees, or even that a hiring manager requires employees to be of a minimum height to fill a position, knowing that members of a certain race or other group are unlikely to be that tall (and that height is not essential to performing the necessary tasks of that role).

Racial discrimination may also be alleged as unfair treatment related to wages, benefits, hours, and other areas of employment. In company-wide claims, collecting and analyzing data can be essential to a defense that relies on proving that differences that appear to be based on race are in fact explained by race-neutral characteristics and individual skills of employees. In instances wherein a company does not know how to account for differences in employment outcomes by group, it’s best if analysis of company data is undertaken proactively–not only to preemptively ensure that any observed adverse employment outcomes can be explained by race-neutral factors, but also to have the data available to explain such differences should an agency charge be filed.

Experts in Labor Economics

Workplace discrimination charges can be difficult for companies to anticipate and overwhelming to handle, particularly when litigation or investigations commence unexpectedly. Collecting the appropriate data proactively can seem like a daunting task, and companies may not even know where to begin. That’s where Welch Consulting’s labor economists come in. We can assist in collecting relevant data to assist in investigating your firm’s employment outcomes, clearly report the data to you, and help you to understand how to address any potential trouble spots that proactive analyses reveal. After data sources are organized and any shortcomings are appropriately addressed, your company will be in a stronger position to defend against agency investigations or private litigation discrimination claims.

Contact us today for industry-leading labor consulting. Welch’s economists also have extensive experience in litigation, having served as expert witnesses in numerous employee discrimination lawsuits. We are the vanguard in economic and labor data analysis; see for yourself the difference we can make.

SOURCES:
Insurance Journal
EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement and Litigation Data
EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2017 Enforcement And Litigation Data
EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Enforcement and Litigation Data
Insurance Business America
Paychex
Paychex