EEOC’s Enforcement, Recoveries Rise in FY 2018

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Why it matters

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) highlighted an uptick in enforcement actions and recoveries in the release of its Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The agency filed 199 merits lawsuits (up from 184 filed in FY 2017), including 117 suits on behalf of individuals, 45 nonsystemic suits with multiple victims and 37 systemic suits (a category that continues to rise from 30 in 2017 and just 18 in 2016). Recoveries also rose over the prior year, with the EEOC receiving $505 million for victims of discrimination (FY 2017 brought in $484 million). Relief obtained through mediation, conciliation and settlement declined slightly, down from $355.6 million in FY 2017 to $354 million in FY 2018. The agency also made progress on its backlog, reducing its pending inventory to 49,607 charges, a decrease of 19.5 percent from FY 2017. The EEOC noted a significant increase in inquiries (a jump of 30 percent), crediting the launch of an online inquiry and appointment system, as well as the agency’s outreach, estimating that it touched more than 398,650 workers, employers and advocacy groups in FY 2018 at approximately 3,900 events.

Detailed discussion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had a busy year. Reviewing the agency’s efforts during the 2018 fiscal year (FY), October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018, the Performance and Accountability Report detailed “significant increases” in both outreach efforts and enforcement actions.

During FY 2018, the EEOC filed a total of 199 merits lawsuits, a slight increase over the 184 filed in FY 2017. These actions included 117 lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals, 45 nonsystemic lawsuits with multiple victims and 37 systemic suits. Defined by the EEOC as actions having “a broad impact on an industry, company or geographic area,” the number of systemic lawsuits filed by the agency continue to grow in number. In FY 2016, the EEOC filed 18, a number that jumped to 30 in FY 2017.

With enforcement on the rise, recovery also grew for the agency. More than $505 million was recovered by the EEOC for alleged discrimination victims, a notable increase over FY 2017’s $484 million in recovery and FY 2016’s $482.1 million. Of the total, recovery from litigation amounted to $53.6 million (up from $42.4 million in FY 2017), and relief obtained through mediation, conciliation and settlement hit $354 million (down slightly from $355.6 million in FY 2017).

Outside the courtroom, the EEOC successfully resolved 41 percent of its conciliations and had 45 percent of its systemic investigation result in voluntary resolutions.

The agency also highlighted its efforts with regard to the #MeToo movement, noting that it filed 66 harassment lawsuits in FY 2017, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment—a 50 percent growth in the number of suits over FY 2017. Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment jumped more than 12 percent over the prior fiscal year, and the agency recovered almost $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

In FY 2018, the EEOC continued to chip away at its backlog. Having made significant progress in FY 2017, the agency again managed to reduce its pending inventory, down to 49,607 charges, a drop of 19.5 percent from FY 2017.

Inquiries rose in FY 2018 by 30 percent, according to the report, an increase the agency credited to the launch of a nationwide online inquiry and appointment system as part of its Public Portal, the EEOC’s commitment to enhance technology as a means to alleviate the ever-burgeoning volume.

The report noted outreach programs (including more than 3,900 events), which the agency estimated reached north of 398,650 workers, employers and advocacy groups in FY 2018.

To read the EEOC’s Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2018, click here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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