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Nearly 50 percent of EEOC complaints due to retaliation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing workplace civil rights, has released its statistics regarding discrimination claims filed in fiscal year 2017. According to the data, retaliation claims composed nearly half of all the claims received by the EEOC for that year. The second most common complaint was racial discrimination, closely followed by disability discrimination.

Forms of retaliation

Retaliation occurs when an employer or supervisor treats an employee less favorably than others because the employee has complained about workplace discrimination or participated in a workplace investigation of discrimination. In 2017, the EEOC received over 41,000 charges of retaliation.

The retaliation complaints included many different incidents, but there were a few that were more common than others. Per the report, retaliation occurred most often after an employee or former employee reported discrimination to their employer.

Other claimants stated that they experienced retaliation after participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit. There were also instances of employees opposing workplace discrimination--for example, threatening to file a discrimination complaint--and experiencing retaliation as a consequence.

EEOC discrimination statistics

The EEOC received over 84,000 workplace discrimination complaints in 2017. The complaints, categorized by type and number of cases, are as follows:

1. Retaliation, 41,000

2. Race, 28,000

3. Disability, 27,000

4. Age, 18,000

5. National origin, 8,000

6. Religion, 3,000

7. Color, 3,000

8. Equal Pay Act, 900

9. Genetic information, 200

Responding to EEOC notices

The EEOC has several tips for employers who receive notices of charges of discrimination from the EEOC. First, it advises employers read their charge notice carefully. The agency notes that a discrimination notice is only a notice that a complaint was received, not necessarily that the claim is factual. Second, employers and their attorneys should follow the directions on the notice and respond to the EEOC. Companies have the option of resolving a complaint through free EEOC mediation that is fast and confidential.

Most importantly though, while it is not required, employers should seek the assistance of experienced employment lawyers in responding to EEOC charges of discrimination. Employer's responses to the EEOC often become exhibits in subsequent discrimination trials.

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