In Down Economy, EEOC Steps Up Employment Discrimination Fight

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on February 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The EEOC received a record number of workplace-discrimination complaints last year, with a notable increase in claims of religious discrimination. The nation's sluggish economy may be partly to blame.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 99,947 job-discrimination complaints in the 2011 fiscal year that ended in September, the agency reported Tuesday. That's 25 more complaints than in 2010 and the most-ever since the agency began in 1965, MSNBC reports.

Here's a breakdown of last year's complaints by type of discrimination, as reported by the EEOC:

  • Race: 35,395 complaints (a 1.4% decrease from 2010)
  • Sex: 28,534 (-1.7%)
  • National origin: 11,833 (+4.7%)
  • Religion: 4,151 (+9.5%)
  • Retaliation (including Title VII): 37,334 (+3%)
  • Age: 23,465 (+0.9%)
  • Disability: 25,742 (+2.3%)
  • Equal Pay Act: 919 (-12%)

America's diversifying workforce may explain the rise in religion and national-origin discrimination claims, a former EEOC attorney now in private practice told the Associated Press. "We're seeing more workers from India, Pakistan and other countries that bring additional religious complexity to the workforce," he said.

Meantime, the overall rise in EEOC discrimination complaints may correlate with a weak job market, an EEOC spokesman told MSNBC. That could mean even more discrimination complaints in the near future, the EEOC opines in a new draft document.

For example, cash-strapped employers "may begin enacting policies to save time or money that have an unlawful disparate impact on certain protected groups," according to the EEOC's draft Strategic Plan for 2012-16.

The four-year draft Strategic Plan, required by Congress, sets forth ways to address the record volume of EEOC discrimination cases, but nothing is set in stone. You can read the draft Plan at the EEOC's website; comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Feb. 1.

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