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EEOC Recovers $439M on Behalf of Victims of Harassment & Discrimination in Fiscal 2020

EEOC Recovers $439M on Behalf of Victims of Harassment & Discrimination in Fiscal 2020

  • Discrimination charges filed in fiscal 2020 were the lowest since 1997.
  • The EEOC still recovered $439M on behalf of harassment and discrimination victims in fiscal 2020.
  • The number of charges dismissed without merit dropped in 2020 to the lowest since 2014.

On February 26, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released its enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal 2020, which ended on September 30, 2020. (All statistics reference fiscal year-end figures.) Each year, the EEOC releases statistics that provide an essential metric for examining the harassment and discrimination climate. Charge statistics are archived between fiscal 1997-2020 and allow employers to review the ebbs and flows of discrimination and harassment enforcement throughout the years. 

Number of Discrimination and Harassment Charges Falls

The number of harassment and discrimination charges in 2020 was 67,448, down from 72,675 in 2019 and the lowest in the last thirteen years. This drop indicates that training initiatives and other preventive measures appear to be working, as fewer incidents of harassment and discrimination are reported, and employees, no doubt, are becoming more educated about what is (and is not) illegal discrimination and harassment.  

EEOC Recovery on Behalf of Victims Increases 

Also key among the EEOC’s data is the $439M recovered on behalf of harassment and discrimination complainants in the private sector and state and local governments. This number was up from the $346M retrieved in 2019. So while the number of charges processed decreased, the amount recovered via settlements and EEOC prosecuted litigation rose. While several factors (inflation and resources allocated to prosecution) can impact recovery, the decrease in charges combined with the increase in recovery suggests that employees file fewer charges overall, but more orders have merit. 

Harassment Charges (and Dismissed Charges) Decrease in 2020

Although part of the total number of charges (and associated recovery) the EEOC reports, the agency breaks out charges involving harassment in a separate chart, this shows that the EEOC’s total number of harassment charges fell to 24,221 in 2020 (down from 26,221 in 2019). Likely, the pandemic affected the number of claims. Nevertheless, the decrease is a positive sign for workplace respect and anti-harassment initiatives. 

While total EEOC dollar recovery increased while an unlimited number of charges decreased, harassment charges dismissed with no reasonable cause dropped to 16,736, down from 18,902 in 2019. This means 31% of 2020 charges were found to have merit after investigation, compared with 28% of those filed in 2019. While not a paradigm-shifting change, any decrease in the percentage of cases dismissed for no reasonable cause saves employers the time, effort, and money spent investigating and responding to (possibly frivolous) claims and also shows that employees are getting more thoughtful about when and why to file a claim of harassment. 

Progress Continuing, But Continued Effort is Needed

All in all, the 2020 EEOC charge, enforcement, and litigation statistics show continued progress in the fight to eradicate incidents of harassment and discrimination in the workplace as employers continue to see the benefits of increased training and awareness, not just on incident prevention but also in employee education and awareness, the drive to instill a culture of civility and respect in the workplace increases. Syntrio prides itself on being the leader in workplace education on harassment and discrimination and a source you can trust to meet your needs in this critical area. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our new and existing offerings with you at your earliest convenience. 

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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