As 2015 comes to a close, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) celebrates its record-breaking year in employee awards from employment discrimination cases. The EEOC earned $525 million for workers after handling nearly 90,000 charges of discrimination filing 142 lawsuits in the year 2015. The EEOC is tasked with enforcing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, national origin, color, sex, gender, religion, age, disability or genetic information. Employees who are discriminated against and whose employer is covered by EEOC laws (most workplaces with over 15 employees), have the right to file a charge with the EEOC detailing the discrimination. The EEOC has the authority to mediate or investigate charges. After conducting an investigation, it can make a determination on whether discrimination occurred. If it finds that discrimination did in fact occur, the EEOC can opt to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the public at large, or it will allow the employee to seek counsel on his or her behalf to litigate the case.
The EEOC is extremely busy, receiving 89,385 charges in 2015 alone. The EEOC mediated roughly 1 out every 9 charges totaling 10,579 mediations, 78% of which were successful. As a result of the more than 10,000 mediations in 2015, charging parties received $157.4 million. Most of the lawsuits filed by the EEOC were brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or Title VII. Throughout the year the EEOC has had 218 active cases in the United States’ district courts. The EEOC says it received a “favorable resolution” in 89.3% of its district court cases.
The EEOC not only facilitates litigation, but also conducts outreach and educational programs to prevent discrimination in the workplace. It also provides guidance to federal agencies and departments to implement anti-discrimination practices and policies and is the arbiter of discrimination claims brought by federal employees. The EEOC is far-reaching, operating 53 offices throughout the nation with headquarters in Washington D.C.
Some of the highlight cases for the EEOC in 2015 include a $582,000 settlement for eight workers against their former employer, a Long Island laundry service. The lawsuit involved a manager who regularly groped and kissed the female workers, who were non-English speaking immigrants. Another case in Maryland was against OHM Concessions Group who fired an employee with breast cancer for requesting unpaid leave for treatment. The settlement required the company to implement an attendance policy that includes a provision for reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
The EEOC is a necessary and influential agency that protects millions of workers across the nation from discrimination. It is essential for workers to know that the EEOC is a valuable resource to use when facing illegal employment discrimination.
If you feel you have been discriminated against at work, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.