Excerpted from Lexology by Fisher Phillips

Employers paid out a record $68.2 million to those alleging sexual harassment violations through the EEOC in 2019, shattering the record by over $10 million and reminding us all that the #MeToo movement continues to be a major influence on workplaces across the country. This is just one of many interesting findings released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its annual data summary covering fiscal year 2019 (which wrapped up in September). The January 24 release is full of eye-opening statistics that could help you set your compliance priorities for 2020 and beyond. Here are 10 thought-provoking takeaways from the EEOC’s annual summary.

1. Sexual Harassment Recovery Exploded

As noted in the introduction, the most compelling piece of information from the release is the amount of money recovered from employers in 2019 for claims of sexual harassment. The $68.2 million represents a 20% increase from the previous all-time high set of $56.6 million in 2018, and is nearly double the total from just five years previous ($35 million in 2014).

2. Sex Discrimination Claims Rose: Sex Harassment Claims Held Steady

It should come as no surprise, then, that claims of sex discrimination remained high in 2019. The past year saw an increase in the number of claims filed – rising from 24,655 to 25,532. Meanwhile, although claims of sexual harassment dipped slightly from 7,609 in 2018 to 7,514 in 2019, this figure still represents the second-highest mark for claims in the past seven years.

3. Retaliation Remains the Most Popular Claim – By Far

By a very wide margin, the most common EEOC claim employers faced in 2019 involved allegations of retaliation. Once again, these claims proved to be the most popular filed by workers. In 2019, over 39,000 retaliation claims were filed, representing nearly 54% of all claims filed with the EEOC. This is the highest percentage ever, highlighting just how important it is to have robust HR policies and training in place. It’s also the 18th year in a row that we have seen an increase in that percentage. Employers can only fondly dream of the year 2002, when only 27% of EEOC claims involved retaliation allegations.

4. Disability Discrimination Claims Also Proved Popular

The next-highest type of claim filed with the EEOC in 2019 were disability discrimination allegations. Following the passage of the ADA Amendments Act in 2008, we have seen a steady increase in the number of such claims. Pre-ADAAA, only 14,893 disability claims were filed, representing under 20% of all EEOC claims. By 2019, that number had jumped to 24,238, accounting for a third of all claims filed. You will want to ensure you and your managers have a firm grasp on your reasonable accommodation obligations and the interactive process to ensure you don’t fall victim to such a claim in 2020.
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