The Incredible Shrinking EEOC

incredible shrinking manThe U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC )  received 99,412 private sector workplace discrimination charges during fiscal year 2012 but determined that only 4.3 percent – or 1,800 cases – were based on “reasonable cause.”

That tiny number actually reflects a slight increase from 2011, when the EEOC found that 4.1 percent of cases (1,707 cases) were based on reasonable cause. This was the lowest number since 1998.

If the EEOC  concludes a case is not based upon reasonable cause, it will not  pursue the case. The charging party can still bring a private court action – if he or she has the money to pursue litigation and can find an attorney who will take an employment discrimination case in the face of a federal judiciary that is  hostile these types of cases.

The number of charges determined by the EEOC to have “reasonable cause” has steadily declined from a high of 12 percent in 2001, when the EEOC found that 3,012 cases were based on reasonable cause.

Does this indicate that more workers  are filing bogus charges against their employers?

According to the EEOC, a finding of “reasonable cause” means the EEOC believes “that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation.” A finding of “no reasonable cause” means the EEOC found “no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation.”

Linguistics  notwithstanding, the decline in cases that the EEOC deems are based on ““reasonable cause” more likely reflects  the  EEOC’s changing priorities  in the face of budget cutbacks. The EEOC last year adopted a strategic plan to focus more upon systemic patterns of discrimination. Meanwhile, the EEOC is attempting to whittle down a massive backlog of more than 70,000 cases.

The EEOC reports that in 2012 it filed a total of 122 lawsuits, including 86 individual suits, 26 multiple-victim suits (with fewer than 20 victims) and 10 systemic suits

The EEOC’s legal staff resolved 254 lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $44.2 million.The year-end data show that retaliation (37,836), race (33,512) and sex discrimination (30,356), which includes allegations of sexual harassment and pregnancy were, respectively, the most frequently filed charges.

The EEOC lost about nine percent of its staff as a result of budget cuts in the past two years, according to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Gabrielle Martin, president of AFGE’s National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216, warns  that threatened budget cuts in March would effectively cripple the EEOC and mean that “the United States would cease to have enforceable civil rights in the workplace.”

Overall, the EEOC  in 2012 secured monetary and non-monetary benefits for more than 23,446 people through administrative enforcement activities – mediation, settlements, conciliations, and withdrawals with benefits. The number of charges resolved through successful conciliation, the last step in the EEOC administrative process prior to litigation, increased by 18 percent over 2011.

The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

0 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking EEOC”

  1. I find that the most important part of filing an EEO claim is utilizing proper representation. I hired a Legal Advocate that was previously employed by the USPS. He knows the inside and out of how they handle their EEO claims. Without proper representation I would have been denied for sure. He knows the process and you know your case, together you can be a winning team..

  2. Not to simplify this complex multifaceted issue, but it seems there is a simple solution to a complex and enormously costly problem of the abuse in the workplace and EEOC overloaded:

    — get the Healthy Workplace Bill passed.

    I am well aware that workplace bullying is not, by itself, illegal in the US (yet). But so many of these cases EEOC gets, are in fact part of a larger workplace bullying or mobbing effort, for example:

    retaliation, harassment, discrimination, IIEE, toxic work environment, invasion of privacy, disparate treatment, even sexual harassment etc… the list goes on. These are often elements workplace bullying (and mobbing).

    The simple part:

    the huge portion of the workplace bullying complants that land at the EEOC are really “illegal” components of a collective workplace bullying. The complainant has to segment the collective tornado of abuses and brings to EEOC what’s illegal now. Of course this keeps the issue under the rug and prevents nothing of the underlying problem, which usually is systemic and repeated for the duration of the bully’s employment… Plus it spreads like a cancer and often becomes mobbing as others “catch on” to the behavior and follow the toxic leader.

    So many EEOC cases would be PREVENTED, abuses never occurring to begin with, if we have a LAW making bullying illegal.

    It is a deliberate health-harming effort against the employee. If people were taught what it is and that it is not to be tolerated, it would be glaringly obvious as the intentional cruel abuse it is, as opposed to “tough management” or “tight ships”.

    Why would cases be PREVENTED by workplace bullying legislation?

    (sidenote: this is where the employer argues against the bill, concerned over”frivilous lawsuits”…. um, no, this one protects you, the EMPLOYER too! You are already paying dearly due to bullying running rife under your nose, but you are shielded and will probably not see it since the bully manipulates and lies, then the EEOC cases pop up as different things, making it hard to quantify for you)

    A workplace bullying law would mean:

    Workplace bullying would be defined, recognized, and known.
    It would be tough to get away with it, when a universal awareness is had.
    NOT getting away with it means: employers won’t lose their best workers, as targets usually are, while an incompetent but manipulative manager is costing you a bundle while your head is in sand.
    Morale and productivity remains high.
    HR would train managers and staff that bullying is not tolerated, and that complaints will not incite retaliation, but will go toward finding solutions.
    Awareness is key to preventing abuse and bullying, and will curb it from going too far if it does start.

    Currently,, HR and managers freely commit these abhorrent, harmful behaviors. Many think they are being covert and they get away with it by ousting the target, or shifting blame as you get sued.

    Meanwhile it is very clearcut what workplace bullying is, and what it is not. It just requires people are aware and provided info, that policies are in place, and adhered to.

    Cases are often systemic, and the abuse is repeated once one target is ousted. The bully is a master manipulator but is causing massive damage and plenty of charges are files under the elements of the whole that are illegal, since workplace bullying by itself comprises any number of illegal acts individually, and collectively it is a devastating damage that workers and employers largely do not understand.

    The EEOC may not recognize that workplace bullying exists, but they are already handling tons of cases due to it. Many could be prevented if it were known and illegal in the US, thus unable to be brushed under the rug as some made-up mystery phenomenon that ends up serving to help label the complainant now as a “crazy” and “paranoid” troublemaker upon seeking help. Currently, when a bullied worker reports the problem to ammanager or to HR, as it stands now without a law, typically HR does nothing – that is, if the employee is lucky. Worse is that, much like whistleblowers,mretaliation against the complainant begins, which leadsmtomconstructive discharge; then longterm disability, and the worker rendered ill and unemployable, while the bully picks another target within weeks and repeats the cycle like a cancer eating away your bottom line and productivity.

    Seems so obvious, we all want the same thing but many are missing the parallels here:
    The “prevention”, “systemic focus” and “nip it in the bud before things get bad” approach, as a goal in EEOC’s strategic plan, is ALSO what will be achieved with the Healthy Workplace Bill.

    1. I agree that a law is needed but I don’t think a state-by-state approach is the way to tackle the problem (though I’m certainly not opposed to a state taking action). Many states (Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, etc.)vwill never pass a Healthy Workplace Bill or any other law that curbs the employer’s “discretion.” They’re falling all over themselves to attract business by eliminating regulations and laws. I think a national approach is the right approach to address workplace bullying. Thanks for your insightful comments – Pat

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