Whether you call this season “fall” or “pumpkin spice latte time”, I like to call it — “It’s CHRO Annual Report Season!”

Yes, I admit I’m a stat nerd when it comes to the CHRO Annual Report. If you’re new to this blog, the CHRO Annual Report provides all the statistics from the last fiscal year (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) and paints a picture of what is going on in the world of discrimination and retaliation cases.

I love reading it.

And while I think I missed last year (seemingly too busy posting about vaccination requirements — remember those?), I’ve been tracking these since the blog’s  start.

So let’s get to the numbers.

The most obvious trend? The continued decline in cases filed with the CHRO.

Overall, there were only 1581 employment discrimination claims filed during last fiscal year, compared with 1765 in the prior year and 1963 in FY ’16-17. That’s a drop of about 20 percent in the last several years.

Other notable statistics?

  • There were 2121 complaints closed during the fiscal year, up from 1953 in the prior year. With the total number of complaints filed being down, this ostensibly means less cases lingering overall at the CHRO.  This is also likely due to the CHRO having a more “regular” year after coping with COVID-related delays and disruptions.
  • 320 complaints were dismissed on Case Assessment Review in this report, compared with 307 in the prior year. But given the lower number of complaints being filed, a higher percentage of those claims are being dismissed.
  • 357 complaints were dismissed at a No Reasonable Cause stage, compared with 290 in the prior year. That would seem to indicate, again, that more complaints are being dismissed at this stage but it’s a bit harder to tell since these findings may have been from complaints filed in the prior fiscal year.
  • Interestingly, more complaints were also closed due to settlements this past fiscal year as well.  708 cases were withdrawn after settlement versus 618 in the prior year. Again, that may be due, in part, to a more normal year versus the COVID-related disruptions.
  • Yet despite the increased dismissals, we’re all seeing a big increase in the number of reasonable cause findings. 101 draft reasonable cause findings were issued in 2021-2022 (with 69 cases certified to public hearing) versus 82 (and 62) in the prior year.

When you look at the types of discrimination claims being filed, other trends become noticeable as well.

  • Age claims are down significantly — 224 vs. 361 in the prior year, or a 37 percent drop.
  • Race claims were flat year over year (470 vs. 470) while sex claims were down slightly (394 vs. 409).
  • National Origin claims were up significantly (193 vs. 136) in the last year — a trend that looks a bit strange.  Perhaps last year was an outlier?
  • Perhaps not surprisingly given the rise of religious accommodation requests for vaccination requirements — religious creed claims were up to some of their highest levels ever — 91 claims filed in 2021-2022 versus 50 in the prior year. That is more than double the number of religion claims that were filed ten years ago as well.
  • Notably, 24 people filed discrimination complaints based on “COVID-19” directly though it is a bit unclear how the CHRO is defining that term.

And lastly, when looking at the case count by issue, still more trends become apparent.

  • Discharge claims — claims related to the termination of employment — are down significantly.  706 cases were filed in 2021-2022 versus 872 in the prior year. No doubt much of the drop in the overall cases is due to this drop as well.
  • Harassment claims however were nearly flat with 514 complaints filed in 2021-2022 versus 527 in the prior year.
  • And despite the religious creed claims being up significantly, claims of “reasonable accommodation” were nearly the same year over year.
  • After a big spike in sexual harassment cases related to the #metoo movement in 2018-2019 with 279 complaints filed, that number has continued to drop with only 157 complaints filed in 2021-2022.

The strong economy has clearly played a role in these statistics. Time and again when the economy is strong, complaints of discrimination go down as people are able to find alternate work easily and are less inclined to go after their former or current employers.  Employees are less inclined to challenge a discharge (and may leave before being fired) and a result, claims go down. COVID-19 also plays a role though it’s still unclear the exact role it played.

While statistics shine a light on the past, they are less helpful to predict the future. We’ve seen a rise in inflation and interest rates while the job market remains stubbornly hot. If we do see a predicted recession, then layoffs will occur and we would expect discrimination claims to rise again.

But I’ve learned the predicting the future is pretty difficult in the pandemic so for now, we can just study the trends and keep preparing for the next year.