No matter the industry in which you work, discrimination might occur. Discrimination at work is a problem in all types of jobs. When it is based on a worker’s protected characteristics, it is also illegal. Illegal workplace discrimination affects thousands of U.S. employees every year. When people file discrimination charges to report unlawful discrimination, their claims are investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding agency in their states. The EEOC provides updated information about the claims it receives each year and how much money it recovers for victims of illegal discrimination at work. While they are common forms of discrimination, sex discrimination and race discrimination were not the most common types of reported claims in 2020. Instead, retaliation claims were reported more frequently than any other type of discrimination. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler fight for the rights of employees who have experienced all types of discrimination and retaliation.
Most common types of workplace discrimination in 2020
The EEOC reported in Feb. 2021 that more than 67,000 claims of workplace discrimination were filed in 2020. Out of the claims that were filed during that year, more than half included claims of retaliation. The EEOC reported the following statistics about the claims it received in 2020:
- Retaliation– 56%
- Race and color discrimination – 38%
- Disability discrimination – 36%
- Sex discrimination – 32%
- Age discrimination – 21%
- National origin discrimination – 10%
- Religious discrimination – 4%
Since victims can allege multiple types of discrimination when they file charges with the EEOC, the totals add up to more than 100%.
The EEOC recovered a reported total of $439.2 million for discrimination victims from private, local, and state employers. In total, the agency recovered more than $535 million through both litigation and mediation.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their protected characteristics, including race, national origin, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, disability, pregnancy, and others. When an applicant or employee complains about harassment or discrimination, employers are also prohibited from retaliating against them for complaining.
Retaliation includes any type of adverse action an employer might take against an employee to retaliate against him or her for filing a discrimination claim. They cannot demote, fire, refuse to promote, refuse a bonus, or take any other type of retaliatory action based on an employee’s discrimination complaint or request for accommodations.
Employees who file complaints about discrimination, participate in investigations, request reasonable accommodations, or ask about salary information to identify wage gaps are engaging in protected activities. Even when a complaint is found to be invalid, employers are still not allowed to retaliate against an employee for filing it as long as the employee reasonably believed that it was unlawful. While anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for engaging in protected activities, there are some limitations.
Employers are allowed to reprimand or fire employees for reasons not related to retaliation. For example, a negative performance review issued to an employee after he or she files a discrimination complaint could be retaliatory or non-retaliatory. The circumstances under which the allegedly retaliatory action occurred will be the key to whether or not it qualifies as unlawful retaliation. An employment attorney at Swartz Swidler can help you to determine whether or not you might have grounds to file a retaliation and discrimination charge with the EEOC or the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
Discrimination complaints alleging multiple forms of discrimination
Discrimination victims are allowed to list more than one type of discrimination in their complaints to the EEOC or the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, which is why retaliation was claimed in 56% of the charges filed with the EEOC in 2020. An employee might be discriminated against at work based on his or her protected characteristics. He or she might also experience retaliation for engaging in protected activities.
According to the EEOC, the pandemic has especially impacted specific groups, making it a civil rights crisis in addition to a public health and economic crisis. People who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and its economic effects include women, people of color, people with disabilities, older employees, and other people who are vulnerable. In turn, vulnerable employees are more likely to experience retaliation when they report discrimination in the workplace and to experience harassment on the job.
Filing complaints with the EEOC
Victims of illegal discrimination in the workplace can file complaints with the EEOC on the agency’s website, by phone, or by submitting them in writing. There is a statute of limitations for filing complaints with the EEOC. In general, people must file discrimination complaints within 180 days of the last discriminatory action. However, in states with longer statutes of limitation, they might be able to file complaints within 300 days. It is important to act quickly to preserve your right to file a discrimination charge. If you wait too long, your claim could be time-barred.
Once you file a complaint with the EEOC, the agency will investigate it. The EEOC might schedule a mediation with your employer. If your dispute cannot be resolved, the EEOC might file a lawsuit against your employer on your behalf. Victims who receive right to sue letters can also file lawsuits against their employers on their own if the EEOC is unable to resolve the dispute through mediation.
Get help from an experienced employment discrimination attorney
If you believe that your employer has unlawfully discriminated or retaliated against you, you should act quickly to preserve your ability to file a claim with the EEOC. To learn more about your rights and how we might help you, contact Swartz Swidler today at (856) 685-7420.