Numbers everywhere

Every once in a while, it’s worth taking a look at statistics in the employment law arena to get a sense of trends with the law and what employers should focus on.For those that have been paying attention, retaliation claims are now the most filed type of charge filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee nationwide.In fiscal year 2012 (the last publicly available data), there were 99,412 charges filed (down from a peak of 99,922 in 2010).  Of those, 38.1% of charges were retaliation-based — up from just 22.6 percent in 1997.

Race discrimination claims — while up in terms of raw numbers from 15 years prior — are actually at their lowest levels percentage-wise in the last 15 years.  Instead, national origin claims and religion claims have each risen a few percentage points over the last 15 years — though even national origin claims seemed to have peaked in 2009.

Not surprisingly, in light of changes that were made to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2009, disability discrimination claims are up sharply the last few years from 14,893 claims in 2005 to 26,379 claims in 2012.

Equal Pay Act claims — which some people projected would increase dramatically after the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 — have remained fairly flat the last few years.  Up a little, but just by a few dozen.  Not enough to really move the needle on such claims.

In Connecticut, unfortunately, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) has had issues with its computer system and hasn’t been able to update its statistics since 2010. 

(The EEOC does keep some statistics on claims are filed in Connecticut with the EEOC itself, but because those claims are typically investigated and handled through the CHRO, the EEOC statistics are really incomplete.)

But the CHRO statistics are hopefully coming soon.

When I asked the CHRO for a quick update last week, a representative indicated while the agency still does not have a new Case Tracking System, CHRO personnel met with the Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology (BEST) a few weeks ago about a new program that could replace what the CHRO has and provide consolidated data.

The CHRO and BEST are expected to test the system for a few weeks; thus, the CHRO believes that it is getting close to having statistics that are ready for public consumption.

That would be useful because it’s hard to know exactly how many claims are being filed in Connecticut (are we going up or down?) and how those claims are being processed through the agency.

In the meantime, though, employers can takeaway a few things from the national numbers.

  • While the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on retaliation cases earlier this year should have some impact on retaliation cases, we still must await a longer-term drop in retaliation cases before employers draw their focus away from such claims.  Until then, employers must remain vigilant to avoid retaliation claims and minimize their exposure in the event a potential claim could arise.
  • Disability discrimination claims are back on the rise. It’s up to employers to understand the requirement to engage in the interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations where possible.
  • With the economy improving, employment law claims are slowly falling again.  It’ll be interesting to see the 2013 statistics when they are released as I suspect we’ll see a further drop in the number of claims filed.

Statistics, of course, only tell part of a story.  Employers must continue to stay educated about all the various developments in employment law.  But by focusing on the areas that you are most at risk on, you can hopefully avoid becoming part of the statistics yourself.