Employers paid more than $439 million to resolve U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discrimination allegations. That number includes both private sector and state and local government workplaces during the agency’s 2020 fiscal year, according to a Feb. 26 statement.
Retaliation claims constituted more than half of all charges filed with the agency last year, while disability-related claims and race-related claims accounted for approximately 36% and 33% of all charges, respectively.
In total, EEOC received 67,448 charges and resolved 70,804. 2020 marked the third straight fiscal year in which the agency both received and resolved fewer charges than it had the previous fiscal year. EEOC said in the statement that it reduced its inventory of pending charges by 3.7%.
Like other federal agencies, EEOC contended with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on its enforcement activities, which led to some shuffling of agency procedures. For example, in March 2020, EEOC temporarily suspended issuing charge closure documents.
“Despite an incredibly challenging year, the EEOC’s dedicated workforce advanced the agency’s mission to fight employment discrimination on all fronts,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in the statement.
In its financial report for the 2020 fiscal year, EEOC said it reduced its case backlog to the “lowest pending inventory in 14 years.” According to an analysis by attorneys with Littler Mendelson, EEOC credited the reduction in part to its priority charge handling procedures, such as pre-charge counseling and predetermination interviews. Technological processes were also cited as a contributing factor, Littler Mendelson said.
Agency lawsuits were also “significantly” down from prior years, according to a September 2020 analysis by Seyfarth Shaw. The firm indicated that EEOC only filed 33 lawsuits during that same month, compared to 52 suits during September 2019 and 84 suits in September 2018. Seyfarth Shaw said leadership changes, program changes and the pandemic itself were likely causes.
The Biden administration made its impact on the agency apparent after just more than a month, formally concluding pilot programs initiated under the Trump administration that aimed to make changes to the EEOC’s conciliation and mediation processes. Last week, President Joe Biden dismissed EEOC General Counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson, a Trump appointee, Bloomberg Law reported, despite Gustafson serving a term that would have ended in 2023.
Under Biden, the EEOC is likely to pursue pay data collection in addition to other forms of data collection, former agency Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic said in a February webinar. In accordance with Biden’s executive order calling for a “whole-of-government equity agenda” tackling issues such as systemic racism, Lipnic said EEOC may focus on cases that are nationwide in scope.