Enterprise Software

Workplace discrimination charges hit all-time high in 2010

The EEOC said a record number of people filed lawsuits against private employers last year. What is responsible for the increase?

According to legal experts, anytime the economy gets shaky, the number of discrimination charges against private employers spikes. However, even seasoned HR pros were surprised by last year's numbers: The number of charges filed with the EEOC rose to nearly 100,000, up 7% from the year-earlier period and 21% from fiscal 2007.

Some think that this spike says less about increasing discrimination in the workplace than about renewed efforts by the EEOC to educate people about what constitutes discrimination and how to exercise their rights.

Also there was such a high number of layoffs last year that you can expect more lawsuits claiming unlawful firings.

Another interesting note is that last year, the number of accusations of employer retaliation (retaliation against an employee for complaining internally or with the EEOC) outnumbered racial-discrimination charges for the first time since the EEOC started operating in 1965. Retaliation lawsuits tend to fare better with juries (are easier to prove) and get higher settlements.

The EEOC said it collected more than $404 million from employers on behalf of employees, its highest annual total ever.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

39 comments
jfaletra
jfaletra

Has anyone considered that a discrimination suit is part of the game in a bad economy? Those that get laid off tend to look for some way to pad the severence.

rfwalsh1r
rfwalsh1r

Try getting an IT position at 60+ years of age - toss out all of your degrees and experience, your current and up to date skills and certifications, and go get that minimum wage poition at Wal-Mart. Technical skill shortage in the US???? Boomers are all retired??? (albeit "INVOLUNTARILY") -- Welcome "H1B" techies to save the day and take our jobs away!!!!

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

Yes I'm female. I admit, I don't mind you letting me have that seat on the metro, or holding the door for me. But I'll be damned if I get that job just to fill a quota. If I can't do the job, then I shouldn't get it. It's smart business. And I don't want to work for someone that can't hire smart people. I'm sure as a college intern I didn't get that job offer b/c I didn't play those manager's ball game and go play beer girl at their golf game and such. Probably didn't get some IT jobs because I am a girl to start with. And there are some idiots that talk to my boobs. But honestly in IT, I prefer to work around guys. Not sure why, but I just jive better with the guys (happily married so don't mentally go there). My philosophy is to be just as, or smarter than the fellas to earn their respect. Morons are morons and there's not enough sensitivity training out there. I'm sure age discrimination will eventually come into play, but I'm not there just yet. Luckily people find my Southern accent adorable in big DC. Again, I try to earn respect by being knowledgeable rather than coming across as a backwoods hick. Although it does take a little while to train some that I have a double first name. There is also educational discrimination. I know of someone and because his engineering degree was from a small private school he didn't get the job. He was told flat out, if your degree was from GA Tech, I'd give you the job. And if a hiring manager can't find someone to fill that quota? That position just has to sit open and my project has to suffer because I can't fill that position.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

The biggest number of discrimination are for age. Many employers think they can hire two semi-skilled people for the same cost of one highly skilled and experienced person. Soon they will realize that it doesn't really work that way as they have to then get that highly skilled worker to clean up the mess created by the semi-skilled worker and do the job right. If they had hired the older, skilled worker in the first place, they would have less problem with their customet service. Circuit City terminated their experienced sales people and payed the ultimate price, loss of sales and distrust by consumers who were lied to by the unskilled sales force and went bankrupt.

bill_koppelman
bill_koppelman

This goes to typify the old adage: "business has no concience." While extremely difficult to prove in the past, and as a result shunned by lawyers, elements have become more blatant and thus more easily uncovered. Just the nature of the beast we created with poor management training and focus on the bottom line.

RBrubaker
RBrubaker

I can say from personal experience that retaliation is indeed the #1 problem. When you can get terminated for asking HR about the possibilities of age bias (in confidence no less) it's obvious that the employers feel emboldened by the vague nature of the law.

jck
jck

Wish I could get a nice chunk of money for workplace discrimination. I guess I should keep logs of when everyone comes and goes in my workplace, and how the female employees get carte blanche to do things involving their children, car repair, and medical needs. And, the men are just expected to "tough it out".

reisen55
reisen55

Anybody hear of AMERICAN WORKERS being fired because they are, oh, AMERICAN? And we have this nasty little thing here called COST OF LIVING and HEALTH CARE benefits. In Bangalore, wages paid by USB Bank are a whopping $1.80 an hour (...eh, minimum wage?) and no bennies. WOW, so fire AMERICAN workers and hire those inexpensive Indian employees and then (IBM, XEROX, HP, ACN and others) can bill clients $125 an hour or more. Hey, anything so long as shareholder values goes UP.

rboykins
rboykins

These numbers are not surprising to me at all. This is a real concern in the workplace. I have not seen alot of terrible behavior in the workplace by employers and employees. This is real. Most companies view this as a non-issue which is sad. I wish the EEOC would do more.

Con_123456
Con_123456

This is something that I cannot understand. In a democratic country, based on free contracts between entities: who is authorized, and why, to tell someone that he is not allowed to choose the best party for their contract (according to their free decision), and that they are obligatory to make the contract with someone else instead? These companies must succeed on the market Will these people pay damage of such forced choice? What these "anti-discriminating" people and organizations do, with all the quotas, blackmailing, penalties, unfair judgements etc. - it is the actual discrimination and should be avoided!

viweed
viweed

I am quite sure a lot of the workplace discrimation has to do with hiring practices. Companies replacing FTEs with foreigners who work for dirt pay. Of course, no matter what the companies say about this practice, the quality of work absolutely suffers!

jvstog
jvstog

I don't doubt that there are some incidents of 'illegal' discrimination. I also know from experience that many of the anti discrimination laws are so vague as to be able to be applied in nearly any workplace to reveal a 'violation'. This is not the intent of those laws (or is it?) Whatever the intent, lawyers make the high incomes off of the lawsuits alleging these violations. Businesses are forced to acquiesce to terms of employement which ought to have no bearing on the employee's job title...such as 'gender confusion', but may have a HUGE effect on the people with whom they work and function on a daily basis. Employers should always have the right to hire whomever they please; these new (and some old) laws take away the 'free market' approach to hiring; and they also take away an employer's right to excercise their religious beliefs. In short, they need a huge overhaul.

gahill
gahill

I'm white and retired from IT now. At the age of 42 my company went out of business. It took 6yrs despite my skill set to get another position in IT. My mother was dating a man who worked in the Ohio Unemployment Dept. He told her this is how it works in State Jobs and Industry follows this standard. Hire Blacks first, females second, and white males last. He also told her if she said anything he would deny these statements.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Most of the HR and managers are informed either by lawyers or experience NOT to let on if the only reason you (or any other minority) got the job was because you fit the NEED to fill a quota nicely, even if someone else was better qualified. If someone was a dumb-dumb and let you know that was the only reason you got the job was or didn't get the job based on they needed to fill a minority (gender, age, or whatever) count or (just had a prejudice against) they would then become the scape-goat for any and all their hidden discriminations or EOE problems. EOE laws were meant to prevent discrimination and allow a minority to work a job they were qualified for. BUT some dumb-dumb decided that the best way to make sure it was so was to add quotas. Now quotas are actually doing more harm than good.

reisen55
reisen55

I spent a short time with the Salvation Army and was terminated because (they never said) but it was suspect that being Jewish is not a good thing to be in this environment. It is really a church, not a business. Sad that the jobvent.com board has bought it.

jck
jck

that here in FL, it is a "right to work" state...which means, someone else has a right to take your work from you. I've thought about approaching my HR department with what's happened in my tenure here, but I know how bad they chit-chat and buddy-up...and, I'd be removed somehow within months. I've seen them do it to other people who tried to do right, and kept others who they actually caught defrauding them out of pay by falsifying their hours worked. It's a sad world.

Con_123456
Con_123456

This ia little example of the real discrimination. Although individual cases may seem like small things, the actual size of it all is overwhelming.

Con_123456
Con_123456

...in case further bullying employers under vague laws, to justify their existence and provide more work for lawyers, prosecutors, judges ... Absolutely not to say that they should establish new institutions that will defend those who are wronged by the current status. Just to close the harmful anti-democratic institutions that already exist and clean law system. In such case, after return to normal conditions, enough jobs and freedom will allow you to knock next door if you feel badly with a particular employer.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

At the risk of angering a number of the Americans on this discussion .... Whenever you have a gross discrepancy in power (for example employer/employee, business/consumer, credit grantor/grantee) government has a responsibility to even the field and define acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. And of course, that includes the responsibility to define the resolution and penalty for violations of acceptable behaviour. So if consumers become too powerful laws such as the copyright laws appear. If business becomes too powerful laws such as privacy, consumer, credit reporting and employment standards appear. It's a basic underpinning of democracy that moral fairness is a right and responsibility for everyone. (As in democracy can't work without it). (And in advance of the inevitable -- no one is perfect and equilibrium is hard to maintain).

Komplex
Komplex

the American South had no problems existing without all those anti-discrimination rules, of course only if you were white.

Shankarl
Shankarl

I think employers recruit foreigners not for low cost. I think they don?t demand these privileges the local workers get and less prone to file lawsuits. I am not sure.

dba88
dba88

An employer can terminate / fire / can / dismiss you, you pick the word, for whatever reason tickles their fancy, or for absolutely no reason at all. Ever heard of the "at will" employment law? That's what they're using to their advantage. Do you have any rights at all? Sure you do, but not enough. Most of the good stuff is stacked on the employers side. Many employment attorneys won't even take a lot of the "whiners" cases. They'll tell you to just move on, put it behind you and not waste your money. There are things you can do. There are some very cool new tools out there to help you build a case against an abusive manager, a bully manager, a "king bee" or a "queen bee" manager. You can even get someone to coach you through the ordeal if you want it. There are even tools you bring into each and every meeting with your manager and HR. I know, because I produced one, that's not very expensive at all, but I don't think I can plug it here. Sorry! But the point is... tools do exist to help employees who find themselves in these situations. I know people that have been so stressed out and depressed about going to work, they had to take a leave of absence or resign. They had to get psychological and / or psychiatric counseling. There's a lot of data out there regarding job stress and tension. Who needs that??!! Life can be difficult enough without having to face that every single day at your job! Well... enough of that, because everyone one of you out there can relate to it in some way, shape or form. You can then take your "stuff" to an employment lawyer for review, to see if you have a case, or perhaps you have an arbitration agreement with your employer. Perhaps you'll be told to set up a meeting with your HR department. In that case, you'll have everything you'll need in a nice neat package. You can even go so far as to have it in powerpoint presentation form! People that have thought of, or actually pursued fighting at will employment laws will come up against super strong lobby orgs with very deep pockets to protect employers. Unfortunately, not much money at all on the employee rights side. Since we generally cannot afford to pursue these things legally, we can at least have some tools that allow us to acquire and organize information so that employees have some ammo on their side for a change!

stevew
stevew

In every economic downturn as businesses cut workers and require more from less, those with less ability are quickly discovered. Feeling the pressure, they scream foul and file lawsuits. In the old days, they were laid off. Keep it up and everything will be done somewhere else as all the businesses will be gone.

mjs1138
mjs1138

"Whatever the intent, lawyers make the high incomes off of the lawsuits" ???? Only if they win!

Komplex
Komplex

You keep on going like this you are going to be shooting up a congressman soon.

RBrubaker
RBrubaker

I'm in Florida as well. Sound's like the same situation I faced. If you know that others were fired as retaliation, maybe it's best to engage EEOC to address bias BEFORE engaging HR.

cartmit
cartmit

Your ambiguous term "moral fairness" is no more a "right" than is the "right" to a car - or to food. There exist only three human rights 1. Ownership of self 2. Ownership of the fruits of your labor 3. Defense of first two rights. See Murray Rothbard: The Ethics of Liberty As for the "basic underpinning of democracy", two quotes sum up this misbegotten abomination: Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on the lunch menu. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. - Unknown "Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses." - H. L. Mencken When queried by a lady as to what form of government they had delivered to the people, Benjamin Franklin replied "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

Con_123456
Con_123456

What you wrote are great ideas. Unfortunately the world will never be 100% fair. We are distinctly rich / poor, health / ill, young / old ... In short, we have to live with these differences between us. Absolute equity is not possible. At this point I must say that road to hell is usually paved with good intentions. So exaggerated efforts to maintain a balance may cause more harm than good - and in many cases this is so. Also consider this. If the damage caused by the activities of an organization is worse than the original problem (which they are trying to solve), or if the original problem is devised, then such organization should be abolished. Finally, did anyone calculate how much do these organizations cost taxpayers?

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

BUT I will argue that the reason for them has long been pushed out of the picture based on quotas, percentages, etc. I AM all for the best person for the job, irregardless of gender or skin pigmentation. I'm not for a company saying Sorry, but we NEED to have someone else for this job that doesn't match your ethnic background. Just because they have a dire need to get that certain employee count to make the EOE/EEOE police happy and leave them alone. All those laws have accomplished is one thing. Another form of discrimination. Call it reverse discrimination, or just plain discrimination. Hiring for ANY reason based on ethnic background or gender is discrimination. Don't get me started on this PC crap of ethnic-nationality identification because all it is is a segregation tool hiding under the guise of ethnic pride. it's a tool waiting for someone to take advantage of to thin the crowds.

cbt.duke06
cbt.duke06

Sorry, but I simply don't buy the argument anymore that racism abounds and that ethnic minorities are subject to discrimination on a regular basis. If that were true, then what would account for the wealth and success of America's Asian minority? I'm tired of hearing blacks and Latinos complaining about white racism when what's really missing (in my experience) is education, work ethic, and raw intelligence. All affirmative action serves to do in this day and age is to give the shaft to qualified white applicants, and to fill positions with unqualified minorities. I can understand why people felt the need for this 60 years ago, but today we live in a very different, and vastly more liberal, era. We need a more meritocratic system, not racist policies that judge people based on their ethnicity.

Con_123456
Con_123456

Hi Komplex I am of course aware of all the violence and injustice during the slavery and all other undemocratic establishments. What I am saying is that the system currently functional in the western countries is undemocratic too, but in the opposite direction. Which can lead to your problems if you are a white man (I do not want it).

reisen55
reisen55

I have been outsourced out of a major job and replaced (along with 139 others) for lower cost help desk in India. Service went to hell and task resolution went from minutes to days. All American firms are interested in these days is killing off IT as an internal function and replacing with lower LOWER cost workers. Your country is being cruelly used by the world.

mjs1138
mjs1138

If you don't think age is a factor as well as salary; Just wait.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Taking what you say has happened as truth, (I have nothing to say that it is or isn't) HOW did she determine ethnicity? Was she the one in charge (or made herself as such) of collecting incoming resumes/CVs? Did you opt to answer optional questions as to ethnicity? Any way it turns out, Yes, presuming she knows such information as ethnicity, she is clearly in the wrong. I think what white people get tired of is the claim that such bigotry and discrimination is around every street corner when it is not. It's still alive, yes, but not as rampant as some would have everyone believe. What's sad is those who won't try to be the next Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, Denzel, Oprah, or Morgan Freeman because their family (learned from their family, and on and on) taught them that if they try to succeed all they'd do is is get ground under some white person's heels. So all they do is hate the white man, and nurse a prejudice worse than any white man's. Yes, it is wrong to discriminate. and I mean any ethnicity against any other.

josinella
josinella

I have a high GPA, high work ethic and I am highly intelligent as expressed by my employers, friends, instructors. Discrimination is alive and well in the USA. Especially when there are many highly qualified applicants (including Blacks)for very few positions, it is easy for discrimination to raise it's ugly head. It is easy for me to understand how this happens because it has happened to me. It is very hard to explain how this happens to someone who has never experienced it. Everyone who files, isn't filing for the money, they want justice and sometimes it only comes about via legal means. People don't want to come to the table, they are embarrassed, closed minded, and don't want to own their "stuff". So they hide until forced out of hiding, via legal channels. I wanted to confront my "accuser" but it became a legal matter because the individual falsified information to prevent me from being interviewed for a position. It was wrong by law. This individual worked in HR and probably blocked the hiring of many "people of color". I preferred a better outcome, for her, other than termination. Because of her position, she affected the outcome for many, not one. This happens and we can't continue to think that it doesn't. It is an unfortunate reality.

Con_123456
Con_123456

Strictly speaking, it is anti-white-male discrimination. Institutions such as the EEOC, "gender"-institutions etc. create artificial problems where there are not, and this for two purposes: 1) to justify their existence and to sustain the army of judges, lawyers and prosecutors behind them, 2) to even more escalate bullying against white men, especially those who have some status or wealth, exploit them, steal their property, families, children. Pay them back for all their work by jail or homelessness. I am not saying that the EEOC, "gender"-institutions, "gender"-laws etc. are just useless: I am saying that they are inherently harmful. America should lead by example to the world, get rid of such parasites and clean up its legal system from all types of absurdities like "sexual harassment" (where men have to prove that it did not happen). Then again order and prosperity will reign. I would never dare to tell Americans how they should manage their own state, if they would not export these tragic things to my country.

reisen55
reisen55

Pardon, most of the time. Ever try calling Bangalore yourself for support? Dell? What is your experience? Delta Airlines brought support back in house. American Express did. Still stinks at Aon Group. ACS?

mtndive
mtndive

I don't think that there are enough lawsuits to provide enough cost to drive business overseas, so I don't think that puts much into the equation. However, pay rate, benefits (& priviledges), and work condition expectations add up to a lot. The major problem for USA IT workers is that the stereotype that the service goes to hell with offshore outsourcing often times doesn't hold true.