The number of EEOC charges of discrimination have increased in recent years. Are companies not as inclusive as they think they are?
By Zee Johnson
The workplace has made many meaningful and evolutionary strides throughout the years, so much so that policies and procedures accounting for any and everyone are no longer things that candidates and employees can only hope are engrained into cultures. Now, companies that don’t have protocols that protect and support every worker are leaving themselves open to serious legal action.
With the emergence and acknowledgment of niche groups in the workplace—like the LGBTQ+ community, immigrant/migrant workers, individuals with disabilities, and others—all organizations must familiarize themselves with state, local, and federal laws to ensure no line is blurry when it comes to DEI within their companies.
Seyfarth Shaw’s 2023 EEOC-Initiated Litigation Report found that last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 73,485 new charges, or complaints of discrimination, an increase of 20% (61,331 complaints) from 2021. And in total, the commission secured more than $513 million in monetary benefits for victims during 2022, $29 million more than it obtained in the previous year.
The report found that the top five most common charges include the following.
- Disability (gaining the most prevalence)
- Racial discrimination
- Age discrimination
For organizations that have slipped through the cracks with outdated, blanket policies that only work for a handful of people, they should first identify key focus areas and then work directly with employees to see how to best implement change.
Further, the report details the EEOC’s enforcement priorities for the year, and organizations can employ some of these steps to protect themselves and their employees.
- Eliminate recruitment barriers. Companies can tackle discriminatory practices at the root by overhauling processes that unintentionally target racial, ethnic, and religious groups, older workers, women, and/or people with disabilities. Leaders should also analyze things like pre‑employment screening tests and technological advancements which can unconsciously rule out certain groups.
- Protect vulnerable workers. Putting policies in place that deliberately include individuals with disabilities, immigrant and migrant workers, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. can limit the number of litigations a company may face for unconscious bias.
- Ensure equal pay for all workers. A primary focus for the EEOC has been doubling down on pay gaps, especially as it pertains to gender. Companies should remove factors that could contribute to pay disparities, including a lack of pay transparency among the workforce, requiring salary history to determine current pay, and having candidates disclose pay expectations during the application stage.
- Address developing issues. For example, at one time, the EEOC saw an uptick in discriminatory practices against Muslim or Sikh people, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Once leaders become aware of targeted practices, policies should be put in place to eradicate the problem before it expands.
- Prevent harassment. Harassment is one of the most frequent workplace complaints. So, businesses should promote a culture with inclusivity at its core; one that represents every sex, race, age, national origin, religion, etc.