On February 11, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released a detailed breakdown of the charges of workplace discrimination it received in fiscal year 2015. Retaliation charges were the largest category of charges filed with the agency, making up 44.5% of all charges filed. Race and disability were the second and third largest categories, making up 34.7% and 30.2% of all charges, respectively.
Retaliation Continues to be Common Charge
From October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, the EEOC received 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination – 39,757 of which were charges of retaliation. In addition to being the most frequently filed type of charge, retaliation charges also increased by nearly 5% from the 2014 fiscal year.
Because retaliation remains a consistently common charge in the private sector workforce, the EEOC announced earlier this year that it is seeking public comment on draft enforcement guidance that would address retaliation and related issues.
The federal and state employment laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding or investigation. Retaliation generally takes the form of an adverse action against such individuals and seeks to deter them from exercising their rights to oppose or participate. Common adverse actions include termination or denial of a promotion, or other actions affecting employment, like threats or unjustified negative evaluations.
Guidance for Employers
Employers should become familiar with the applicable employment discrimination statutes and their respective anti-retaliation provisions. Employers should also train supervisors and management to properly address employees who have concerns regarding potentially unlawful practices or who participate in discrimination-related proceedings.
Leech Tishman’s Employment Practice Group has extensive experience advising clients on compliance under applicable federal and state employment discrimination statutes and defending employers in discrimination actions filed with the EEOC and various state fair employment agencies. Leech Tishman’s employment attorneys are available to assist you if your organization has questions regarding issues related to these statutes or employees’ rights thereunder.
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