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It’s been a record-breaking year at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which received more discrimination charges than ever before and won an all-time high $365 million for victims of workplace discrimination, while simultaneously managing to reduce its huge backlog of cases. According to the agency’s newly-released annual report, the EEOC in fiscal year 2011 received 99,947 charges of discrimination — the most ever in the agency’s 46-year history. As of Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ended, there were 78,136 pending charges — a decrease of 8,202 charges, or 10 percent, over last year. It’s the first time since 2002 that the EEOC has whittled away at its backlog. “I am proud of the work of our employees and believe this demonstrates what can be achieved when we are given resources to enforce the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien in a news release. EEOC staffing fell 30 percent during the Bush administration, to a near historic low of 2,176 in 2008. Hefty budget increases in 2009 and 2010 have allowed the agency to hire several hundred new employees. In an interview last year, Berrien said that reducing the charge backlog was a priority, saying it was a “hardship for employers and employees when charges languish.” She also pointed to bringing more “systemic” cases involving multiple plaintiffs. In its 2011 report, the EEOC reported that at the end of the fiscal year, there were 580 systemic investigations under way — up from 485 investigations last year. Also, EEOC field legal units filed 261 lawsuits — 23 of which involved systemic allegations affecting large numbers of people; 61 had between two and 19 victims; and 177 were individual lawsuits. The EEOC’s private sector mediation program also broke records, securing 9,831 resolutions, the most ever in the program’s history. Complainants obtained more than $170 million in monetary benefits. Overall, the EEOC concluded that due to its enforcement programs, 5.4 million people benefited “from changes in employment policies or practices in their workplace during the past fiscal year.” Contact Jenna Greene at [email protected].

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