The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its 2009 fiscal year performance and accountability report, and the numbers continue to reflect that employment issues are a major liability concern for employers. During the EEOC's 2009 fiscal year, more than 93,000 charges of discrimination were filed against private employers. This is the second highest number of federal employment discrimination charges filed against private employers in the last 20 years, trailing last year's record of 95,000 charges. In addition to the continued high level of administrative charges, the EEOC received its largest budget increase in 10 years, increasing its enforcement budget to more than $340 million dollars. In just the past few months, the EEOC has added more than 155 additional investigators, trial attorneys, support staff and paralegals. The EEOC's Chairman, Stuart Ishimaru, stated that he expects the EEOC to continue its increased hiring in 2010.
Although the preliminary report did not include statistics for each category of charge, the Chairman stated that the EEOC has seen a nearly 11 percent increase in disability discrimination charges under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the Chairman, this increase likely is a side-effect of the broader coverage of the ADA since the passage of the statutes' new amendments last year.
The EEOC also collected more than $290 million dollars for all claims of discrimination – a record high. In the report, Chairman Ishimaru stated that the EEOC's mediation alternative continued to be successful in 2009. Notably, during 2009, the EEOC filed 281 lawsuits, including 170 individual lawsuits and 111 class action lawsuits.
It should be emphasized that Aletha Brown, EEOC's Inspector General, warned that the number of charges likely will increase significantly in 2010, as the EEOC begins enforcing the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act as well as the expanded ADA. She also stated that the new hires made by the EEOC, resulting in its expanded enforcement capability, will increase its ability to process and investigate charges. In that regard, Ms. Brown was critical of the EEOC's alleged past "failures" in its investigative process "to effectively eliminate employment discrimination." Her comments clearly reflect the EEOC's intent to continue to increase its enforcement activities against employers.