The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Wednesday that workplace discrimination complaints remain at historic high levels, as the agency saw 93,277 such complaints in fiscal year 2009 -- the second-highest level in its history.
The year 2008 saw the most workplace discrimination complaints, but EEOC officials do not see in the decrease any sign of relief. Instead, the agency points to the bigger picture, noting that the late 1990s, for example, didn't average 80,000 such complaints annually.
The 2009 statistics show "that discrimination is still a major problem in the workplace," said EEOC spokesman David Grinberg.
As EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru put it in a statement, "The latest data tell us that, as the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the Commission's work is far from finished .... Employers must step up their efforts to foster discrimination-free and inclusive workplaces, or risk enforcement and litigation by the EEOC."
According to the EEOC's fiscal year data, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, three types of discrimination complaints increased over the last year. Disability complaints increased by 10 percent, from 19,453 to 21,451. National origin complaints increased 5 percent, from 10,601 to 11,134. Religious discrimination claims increased 3 percent, from 3,273 to 3,386.
The number of charges alleging age-based discrimination reached the second-highest level ever -- 22,778 compared to the 2008 record high of 24,582.
Continuing a decade-long trend, the most frequently filed charges with the EEOC in 2009 were complaints alleging discrimination based on race-based discrimination (36 percent), retaliation (36 percent), and sex-based discrimination (30 percent).
In 2009, the EEOC also recovered a record high of $294 million through administrative enforcement and mediation.
The EEOC credits the high levels of discrimination filings to a number of factors: greater public accessibility to the EEOC, economic conditions, increased diversity and other demographic shifts in the labor force, employees' greater awareness of their legal rights, and changes to the agency's intake practices that cut down on the steps needed to file a charge.
A comprehensive list of the EEOC's enforcement and litigation statistics for 2009 are posted on the agency's Web site.