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Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi, LLP

Discrimination Claims Against Businesses Continue To Rise, But Most Are Without Merit

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) job is to enforce federal laws against discrimination based on sex, religion, race, age, national origin, disability or genetic information. These laws apply to every work situation including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, payment and benefits. If an employer has fifteen employees (or 20 in age discrimination cases), they are likely covered by EEOC laws.

Accordingly to EEOC statistics, the number of race based employment claims or charges in the 2011 Fiscal Year was 40,534. Every year since 2007, where the number was 25,882, the number has risen. In fact, the number has risen by almost 10,000 in the last two years.

But for business owners, the more important statistic may be that 70.6% of those EEOC cases were resolved because there is no reasonable claim. However, there was a total of $83.3 million in benefits paid based on race discrimination charges. With a similar number of clams in the late 1990s, the payouts totaled $53.2 million.

The number of sex based EEOC employment claims in 2011 was 32,789. Prior to 2010, the number had floated just under 30,000 but had not risen above 30,000 since 1999. No reasonable cause was found in 63% of cases. Last year, $145.7 million was given out in benefits. Though there has been a fairly consistent number of claims since the late 1990s, the amount of monetary benefits has doubled since 1997.

Also in 2011, the EEOC reported 26,080 age discrimination cases. This number has risen from a low of 14,076 in 2005. While 66.9% had no reasonable cause, a total of $95.2 million in benefits paid out. While the number of claims has not raised much, the amount of monetary benefits given out has more than doubled since 1997, when $44.3 million was paid.

There were 4,608 religion based discrimination claims in 2011, with 59.4% ending with no reasonable cause. The number for monetary benefits has risen every year since 2006 and was $12.6 million last year.

As for national origin based claims, in 2011 there were 13,749, with 65.7% were found to not have a reasonable cause. Total benefits added up to $34.1 million and has steadily increased since 2005.

Finally, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims totaled 27,873 in 2011. This number has risen from 2001, but 63.6% had no reasonable cause. A total of $103.4 million was handed out in 2011, an increase of almost $40 million from the prior year.

The message to business owners is this. If a claim is brought against you in the EEOC, or any state civil or human rights agency, fight it aggressively and don't concede to meritless claims. But, be prepared to possibly make an economic decision to pay a nominal amount to save future attorneys fees and costs.

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