EEOC Filings Up, But Has Workplace Discrimination Increased?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just announced its charge filing and litigation statistics for Fiscal Year 2002, and charge filings are decidedly on the upswing. The EEOC reports that from September 2001 to September 2002, charge filings, the first step in bringing a claim of discrimination, increased 4.5 percent, reaching their highest levels in seven years. (See Findlaw article.) Certain types of discrimination complaints saw fairly dramatic increases: religious discrimination (up 21%), age bias (14.5%), and national origin discrimination (up 13%). EEOC Chairwoman Cari M. Dominguez attributes the rise in charge filings to the poor economy, an aging and multinational work force and backlash from the 2001 terrorist attacks. She especially notes the rise in age discrimination filings, remarking that this issue “continues to be troublesome for us, because with baby boomers getting into the 50-plus category, it’s cause for concern that employers have not yet gotten their arms around this issue.” Of the 84,442 charges filed during the 2002 fiscal year (up from 80,840 the previous year), the largest number of charges continue to be filed in the areas of race discrimination, sex/gender discrimination, and retaliation. So will the number of charge filings continue to increase? Certainly, the fewer options workers have to find new jobs comparable to the ones that they have lost generally means that they are more likely to take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding their termination, rather than just moving on to something better. They may also have more time, energy, and motivation to challenge discrimination if their efforts to find comparable employment have been unsuccessful. And the more older workers there are that grew up in the 60s and 70s, knowing about their rights and prepared to fight for them, then the more likely it is age discrimination cases will continue to increase. We’ve all heard of various post-9/11 incidences of religious and national origin discrimination, involving workers of Middle Eastern descent and/or the Muslim faith, and sometimes even turban-wearing Sikhs, who have been wrongly treated as if they were in close alliance with terrorists. Hopefully, those claims will soon start to subside as our nation starts to heal from this tragedy and gain more tolerance and understanding of those of different faiths and cultures. However, it will be interesting to see whether the economy continues to contribute to a high number of claims until we’ve had a full economic recovery.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.