The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission logged approximately five percent fewer discrimination complaints in Fiscal Year 2014 than the year earlier.
The EEOC received 88,778 private sector charges in FY 2014, compared to 93,727 in 2013 and 99,412 in 2012.
Does this reflect an improving economy or is it a sign of difficulties within the federal agency that is charged with insuring compliance with federal civil rights laws? Or maybe both.
Clearly, 2014 was a difficult year internally for the EEOC. According to the EEOC’s annual report, the agency resolved 87,442 charges in 2014 which is 9,810 less than it resolved in 2013. Meanwhile, the EEOC’s backlog grew and now totals 76,000 cases. The EEOC also suffered withering criticism in federal courts in 2014 – some of it patently unfair – and it was forced to pay millions of dollars in attorneys fees to the opposing side in ten lawsuits.
There are indications that employment discrimination victims are losing confidence that the federal government will actually do anything about employment discrimination. The number of employment discrimination claims filed in federal courts also have declined in recent years. Many attorney refuse to file these cases in federal courts because they are disproportionately dismissed by federal judges.
The EEOC blames its difficulties in 2014 on the government shut-down and a hiring freeze that, coupled with normal attribution, particularly affected its investigatory staff. There were also indications of management woes. President Obama in September appointed EEOC Vice-Chair Jenny R. Yang to the position of EEOC Chair, replacing Jacqueline Berrien whom Obama appointed in 2009.
Germaine P. Roseboro, the EEOC’s Chief Financial Officer, said the financial outlook is brighter for the EEOC in the year ahead. She states that the EEOC’s FY 2014 appropriation was $20 million more than FY 2013 and the infusion of funds allowed the EEOC to lift a two-year hiring freeze and hire more than 200 external candidates for front-line and support positions. “The agency is on track for restoring its capacity to more effectively meet the EEOC’s mission,” she writes.
However, there are indicators of yet more trouble ahead for the EEOC in the new Republican-led Senate and Congress.
GOP Senators Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander recently blasted the EEOC for investigating companies for engaging in systemic discrimination without first requiring employees to file formal complaints. Paul, who seems to have virtually no understanding of the dynamics of employment discrimination, was particularly incensed. He asked EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez., “How can you show up to work with a straight face? I don’t understand how you wouldn’t resign immediately, and say, ‘This is abhorrent.’” He also accused Lopez of using the “bully nature” of his agency to “punish business.” Do Rand and Alexander think the EEOC should ignore employers who refuse to hire workers unless they sign unconscionable contracts that are especially designed to thwart employment discrimination laws? Sadly, it seems so.