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 number 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 statistics the EEOC releases provide an important metric for examining the harassment and discrimination climate. Charge statistics are archived between fiscal 1997-2020 and allow employers to examine the ebbs and flows of discrimination and harassment enforcement throughout the years. 

Number of Discrimination and Harassment Charges Falls

The number of charges of harassment and discrimination in 2020 was 67,448, down from 72,675 in 2019, and the lowest in the last thirteen years. This drop is an indicator that training initiatives and other preventive measures appear to be working, as fewer incidents of harassment and discrimination are reportedand employees, no doubt, are becoming more educated as to what is (and is not) illegal discrimination and/or 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 recovered in 2019. So while the number of charges processed decreased, the amount recovered via settlements and EEOC prosecuted litigation rose. While a number of factors (inflation and resources allocated to prosecution) can impact recovery, the decrease in charges combined with the increase in recovery suggests that employees are filing fewer charges overall, but more charges 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 the total number of harassment charges the EEOC received fell to 24,221 in 2020 (down from 26,221 in 2019). Likely, the pandemic had an effect on 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 total 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 smarter 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 from 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 extremely important area. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our new and existing offerings with you at your earliest convenience. 

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