It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. 

It’s the time when I delve into the annual report of case statistics released by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.  It’s a time to look for trends. And yes, I get excited about this report every year.

The most obvious trend? Case filings are down.

Indeed, the report for 2019-2020 contains some surprises, but without further context, it’s difficult to know the exact causes.

The report’s year ended June 30, 2020, so I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that the spring shutdown and the pandemic played a factor, but how much?

For example:

  • Total case filings dropped from 2625 claims in 2018-2019, to 2319 in 2019-20.  Employment claims dropped too, from 2028 to 1922.  But complaints against state agencies actually increased from 186 to 223.  Why?
  • 434 cases were dismissed on Case Assessment Review in the 2019 report versus 385 in 2020.  Combined with the prior statistics, this suggests (generally) that the CHRO took in fewer cases, but also dismissed fewer too. Is such a difference meaningful? Hard again to tell.
  • At first glance, it appeared that the numbers of cases closed by the agencies was exactly the same — 2640.  But a deeper dive into the report reveals an error: The total for 2020 is incorrect. Adding up all the numbers – just 2403 cases were closed.  Thus, the CHRO’s case closures slowed down; that is probably not that surprising given how the pandemic impacted business in Q2 of 2020.
  • Not surprisingly, many protected categories (age, color, sex) showed significant drops in the numbers of employment claims filed.  A few (gender identity, mental disability) showed modest increases.
  • Sexual harassment claims, which peaked last year, have now started to fall significantly.  In 2019, the number was 279; in 2020, it was just 210.  That’s less than the 2018 number of 235 cases as well.  Other case issues (discharge, retaliation, terms & conditions) also saw big drops as well.

The drop in cases could be a blip; after all, in prior recessions, the number of claims has historically increased as people struggle to find work and are more prone to file a claim in tough labor markets.

I said last year that employment discrimination claims had showed no signs of dropping off; that changed a bunch over the twelve months ending June 30, 2020.  The open question now is: How much will the pandemic further change things for 2020 and 2021?