The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released detailed breakdowns of the 84,524 charges of workplace discrimination that the agency received in fiscal year 2017.
Of those charges, retaliation claims top the list. Retaliation charges account for nearly 50% of all charges filed with the agency. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment. But retaliation can also be more subtle.
The EEOC resolved 99,109 charges in FY 2017. It secured more than $398 million for victims of discrimination in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation.
Of the charges filed with the EEOC in FY 2017:
• Retaliation is the number one charge with 41,097.
• Race discrimination charges came in 2nd with 28,528 charges.
• Disability discrimination charges took 3rd with 26,838 charges.
• Sex discrimination charges were a near 4th with 25,605 charges.
In addition, the EEOC received 6,696 claims of sexual harassment and obtained $46.3 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment.
California Doesn’t Top the List
The EEOC also keeps track of the number of charges it receives by state. In FY 2017, California came in 3rd behind Texas and Florida. (Retaliation accounted for over 50% of all state charges).
These figures aren’t surprising given the large populations of these states. Also, keep in mind that in California, employees also have another avenue for complaining of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Employees can file their charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) instead of, or in addition to, the EEOC.
California and federal protections against retaliation are strong. California law emphasizes an employer’s affirmative duty to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, regardless of whether the alleged harasser is another employee, supervisor, vendor, or even a customer.
A comprehensive approach to preventing retaliatory practices is recommended. Training for supervisors on what constitutes retaliation and on your policy against retaliatory practices is essential, and for companies with more than 50 employees, required by AB1825. Building policies that truly reflect business practices and educating employees on how to report is another proactive risk mitigation opportunity. Best practices also include carefully reviewing discipline and termination decisions that involve individuals who participated in a complaint of unlawful workplace conduct and consulting legal counsel.
Having established processes and resources ready to respond to allegations of retaliation is important to containing retaliation and/or discrimination liabilities. Delayed or ineffective management of employee claims of retaliation commonly exacerbates problems. It is healthy for employers to assume that they will face claims of retaliation so that they proactively prepare.
About Employer’s Guardian
California vigorously protects employees from discrimination and updates laws on a regular basis. Employer’s Guardian engineers solutions for employers to help them proactively mitigate risks like Retaliation Charges through policies, managerial development, and training. To find out more information, give John a call at (916) 635-2543.
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