Discrimination in the workplace continues to be an ongoing problem across the United States. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is the federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing laws that make it illegal to discriminate against any job applicant or employee. Each year thousands of workplace discrimination charges are filed with the agency resulting in millions of dollars secured for victims. Although most employers understand the cost that such complaints can create, many fail to remain EEOC compliant. Here is a look at some of the top charges filed by the EEOC in 2017.
According to 2017 data released by the EEOC, retaliation claims totaled 48.8 percent of all filed charges. Retaliation has been the number one EEOC claim seven years in a row, making it a major problem in all industries. Retaliation comes in many forms, such as reprimanding an employee in response to EEOC activity. Other forms of retaliation may be engaging in physical or verbal abuse, transferring an employee to a less desirable position, making an employee’s work more difficult, or increasing scrutiny.
2. Discrimination Based on Race
The next most common charges filed by the EEOC include cases of discrimination based on race. In 2017, 33.9 percent of charges were race-related. Racial discrimination can be hard to detect in the workplace and even harder to prove unless an employer specifically admits to it. However, there are some instances when discriminatory intent is clear, such as when an employer specifically asks a job applicant what their race is. Many times, racial discrimination is subtle and the applicant does not know for sure why he or she was denied for a position.
3. Discrimination Based on Disability
Next up is discrimination based on a disability which accounted for 31.9 percent of charges in 2017. Disability discrimination consists of an employer treating a qualified worker with a disability unfavorably solely due to his or her disability. This type of discrimination can also cover an employer who treats an employee or job applicant less favorably due to a history of a disability. Federal laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities unless making such accommodations would result in a significant expense or difficulty for the employer.
4. Discrimination Based on Sex
Sex discrimination made up 30.4 percent of all charges filed by the EEOC in 2017. This type of discrimination involves treating a job applicant or employee unfavorably due to the person’s gender or sex. Discrimination may be due to a person’s gender identity such as in the case of transgender status, or because of a person’s sexual orientation. The law forbids all types of sex discrimination in hiring, pay, firing, job assignments, layoff, promotions, fringe benefits, training, or other condition of employment.
5. Sexual Harassment
EEOC data revealed a total of 6,696 sexual harassment charges in 2017 that resulted in approximately $46.3 million in monetary benefits for the victims involved. Sexual harassment in the workplace directly violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which applies to employers who have 15 or more employees. The Act also applies to labor organizations and employment agencies. The victim and harasser may be male or female and the harasser’s conduct must be unwanted. The victim of the sexual harassment is not limited to the person being directly harassed but can also be anyone who is affected by the offensive conduct.
6. Discrimination Based on Color
Discrimination is often based on the color of a worker’s skin. This type of discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably due to their skin color complexion. This not only occurs when the victim and discriminator are of two different races, but can also happen when the victim and discriminator are the same race or color. It is unlawful to harass someone due to the color of their skin. Harassment can come in many forms, such as using racial slurs or saying derogatory remarks about an individual’s skin color. No matter how subtle or infrequent, this type of harassment is illegal and should be reported.
7. Discrimination Based on Religion
Religious discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly due to his or her religious beliefs. Laws protect applicants and employees who belong to organized religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, as well as individuals who have other ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. Harassment pertaining to religious discrimination may come in the form of offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or making offhand comments about a person’s religious practices.
8. Discrimination Based on Age
Age discrimination is another common problem in the workplace caused when an employee or applicant is not treated properly due to his or her age. For workers over the age of 40, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination. However, it does not protect workers under the age of 40. Age discrimination cases can occur for a number of reasons, such as an applicant being denied for a position because the employer wanted a younger person for the job.
9. Discrimination Based on Genetic Information
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 has made it unlawful for an employee or applicant to be discriminated against due to their genetic information. No type of genetic information can be used by an employer when making decisions regarding employment. Genetic information may include a worker’s genetic tests or the tests of the individual’s family.
10. Discrimination Based on National Origin
It is unlawful to discriminate against an applicant or employee due to their national origin. It is also illegal to discriminate against someone because of they are married to or associate with a person of a specific national origin. Laws require employers to use an employment policy that applies to all applicants and employees equally, regardless of where they were born or who their ancestors were.
EEOC compliance problems can happen to any employer. If you are dealing with such issues, contact a human resources consultant.