The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 72,675 employee charges alleging employer violations of anti-discrimination laws in the agency’s fiscal year 2019. The most common charge was unlawful retaliation against the employee for asserting his or her rights under these laws.
What Constitutes Illegal Retaliation?
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for internally reporting or complaining about illegal discrimination or harassment. Retaliation can include a variety of negative employment actions, such as firing, demoting, docking pay, denying desirable assignments or doing anything else that is harmful to the employee in their professional or personal capacity in the workplace.
It is also unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a worker for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC, the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Commission on Human Rights; or for filing a lawsuit against the employer. Employees who cooperate in related investigations or who act as witnesses in related proceedings also have legal protections from retaliation for those activities.
Retaliation most numerous charge nationally
Below is a breakdown of the FY 2019 EEOC data, by basis and occurrence:
· Retaliation: 39,110 (53.8%)
· Disability: 24,238 (33.4%)
· Race: 23,976 (33%)
· Sex: 23,532 (32.4%), including 7,514 sexual harassment charges (10.3%)
· Age: 15,573 (21.4%)
· National origin: 7,009 (9.6%)
· Color: 3,415 (4.7%)
· Religion: 2,725 (3.7%)
· Equal Pay Act: 1,117 (1.5%)
· Genetic information: 209 (0.3%)
The percentages add up to more than 100% because some employees allege multiple bases for discrimination in their charges.
New York’s portion of EEOC charges
New York ranked eighth in the nation in number of charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2019, with a total of 3,220 charges. New York’s breakdown by charge type also showed that retaliation was the most common charge:
· Retaliation: 1,841
· Sex: 1,209
· Disability: 1,008
· Race: 881
· Age: 632
· National origin: 433
· Color: 319
· Religion: 179
· Equal Pay Act: 64
· Genetic information: 6
Any New Yorker with concerns about discrimination or harassment should speak with an experienced attorney to understand all potential legal remedies. Legal counsel is important because there are filing deadlines involved and because of complicated legal connections between government agencies and, in some instances, the right to sue in court.
Similarly, any New York employer faced with an internal complaint, an EEOC or state agency discrimination charge, or a lawsuit alleging violation of anti-discrimination laws should seek immediate legal advice about how to respond.