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Employee Discrimination Claims and Awards

  • Published: 2012-01-01 - Contact: Elkus & Sisson, P.C.
  • Synopsis: In 2011 US employees filed almost 100000 federal employment discrimination complaints a record amount perhaps due to the weakened economy and high unemployment rate.

Definition: EEOC

EEOC - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

Main Document

Employees filed almost 100,000 federal employment discrimination complaints in 2011, a record-breaking amount. Some believe this phenomenon is a consequence of the weakened U.S. economy and high unemployment.

On the bright side, 2011's unprecedented amount of discrimination allegations led to the largest sum of money ever awarded to victims of employment discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC - the federal agency that handles these complaints - obtained nearly $365 million for employment discrimination victims in 2011 through its enforcement activities, according to an EEOC report. The report notes that the agency resolves discrimination charges through mediation, settlements, conciliations and withdrawals with benefits. Employees won more than $170 million through the mediation program alone.

Rise in Employment Discrimination Claims Linked to Economic Crisis

Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project, a lower-wage worker advocacy organization, told the Huffington Post that these historic discrimination claim statistics reflect "the severity of the economic downturn." Owens said that workers are more vulnerable due to increased job loss. This could mean that high unemployment is causing employers to believe they can take advantage of employees or simply that more workers are getting fired and bringing complaints.

Taking Discrimination to Court

In addition, the EEOC reported that it challenged workplace discrimination in more than 200 court cases, an increase since 2010.

The EEOC brings lawsuits based on the various types of discrimination claims it oversees, including:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Equal Pay/Compensation
  • Genetic Information
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion
  • Retaliation
  • Gender
  • Sexual Harassment

For allegations of private sector discrimination in any of these categories, employees must first submit a charge to the EEOC, which will investigate the claim. The EEOC will attempt to settle the case if it finds a potential violation, and if unsuccessful, EEOC lawyers can bring a federal lawsuit on your behalf.

Federal employees must first file a complaint with their employer, and if it is denied, they can then file an EEOC appeal. An administrative judge will make a decision, which in some circumstances can be challenged through a lawsuit.

Employees who have suffered discrimination and those accused of discrimination should contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney to determine the best course of action. An employment discrimination attorney can help you navigate the administrative and court processes and help protect your rights.

Article provided by Elkus & Sisson, P.C. Visit us at


  1. Disability Discrimination in the Workplace on the Rise - By broadening the definition of disability under the ADA, Congress made it possible for many who have suffered discrimination in the workplace to take action against their employers.
  2. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Disability Discrimination - The role of the EEOC is to fairly investigate and accurately assess allegations related to charges and present a finding.
  3. Employment Discrimination at All-Time High - Most people work under "at-will" terms of employment, meaning that either they or their employers may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason.


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