Widespread Layoffs Lead to More Workplace Discrimination Filings

Hearing Impaired Person at Workplace_Wikimedia Commons

It happened after the 2001 recession and it’s happening again. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a report stating that workplace discrimination filings increased from 93,277 to 99,922 between September 2009 and the end of September 2010. The 7.2 increase is the highest level of new discrimination cases ever recorded.

Workplace discrimination cases are typically filed when a worker feels he has been unfairly treated based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected category. The EEOC report shows that the largest increase in filings was from disabled workers. According to a recent NYT report, “this increase may be linked to recent changes in the legal definition of disability to make it more expansive. The Obama administration’s growing reputation of greater interest in discrimination cases than its predecessor may also have increased filings. But experts say the chief reason for the increase in accusations of prejudice is most likely tied to the broad layoffs of the last few years.”

Many employer’s feel that most of the discrimination case filings with the EEOC  are “spurious attempts by workers with no job opportunities who have not experienced discrimination.”

“The majority of the time, the EEOC is still finding no reasonable cause for the charges being filed,” said Michael S. Burkhardt, an employment partner in the Philadelphia office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who represents employers in discrimination class-action suits. “In some cases, people are just upset that they were terminated, and they happen to be in a protected category. Even if that has nothing to do with why they were terminated, they still file a charge.”

He added that employers have had to become increasingly careful about how they structure layoffs when they reduce their work forces, as many have done since the financial crisis began several years ago.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace, contact the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000 (1-800-669-6820 TTY) or visit the official EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov.


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