Record numbers of discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a MSNBC column:

Discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission jumped 15 percent in fiscal 2008 to 95,402 — the highest level since the agency opened in 1965, said spokesman David Grinberg. That is up from 82,792 claims filed the year before by workers who believe they were discriminated against because of age, race, religion, gender or other reasons.

Those are truly stunning statistics because the unemployment numbers for 2008 didn’t even start to spike until the last few months and this is for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008.  If you were to extrapolate that trend for 2009, it’s entirely plausible that we could hit 100,000 claims filed during 2009. 

The formal numbers will be released later this week, but already, the EEOC spokesman has his interpretation: "It’s possible we have yet to see the full impact of the recession on discrimination charge filings as the economy continues to spiral downward since fiscal year 2008,” Grinberg said.

What is the makeup of these increases? Well, according to the MSNBC report, retaliation claims are up nearly 23%, age claims up nearly 29% and gender and religion claims up 14%.  By contrast, race claims are up only 11%, while disability claims are up a mere 10%.  Interestingly, Equal Pay Act claims — which will get a boost from the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — were already up nearly 17% last year, before the passage of that bill.

What Does This Mean For Employers?

While the CHRO has yet to release its statistics for Connecticut, the EEOC numbers indicate that claims are on the rise..and in a big way.  Every decision to terminate an employee carries an even greater risk of a complaint.  With jobs becoming scarcer by the day, laid-off or terminated employees may view a complaint as their own way to stay afloat and their only option. 

These numbers emphasize the point that decisions to terminate employees should be made cautiously and carefully.  What are the consequences? You could end up being part of next year’s statistics.