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EEOC may not be doing on the job

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the duty of enforcing federal laws against workplace discrimination. But a recent review of EEOC complaints indicates that it is taking insufficient steps to pursue violations of employment law banning discrimination.

The EEOC did not act upon 87 percent of the approximately 1.9 million cases filed by discrimination victims from 1999 to 2018. This information came from a review performed by Paychex, Inc., a New York-based company that provides various human resource services to small and mid-sized businesses.

The EEOC found reasonable cause for discrimination in only 4.6 percent of complaints. It considered the filing of lawsuits in only 3.2 percent of these cases. EEOC statistics revealed that the percent of reasonable cause determinations dropped from a high of 9.9 percent of complaints in 2001, to 3.2 percent in 2016, 2.9 percent in 2017 and 3.5 percent last year.

Federal law, which was enacted 50 years ago, requires discrimination victims to first file a complaint with the EEOC before they can pursue their case in federal court. This was intended to encourage voluntary compliance with laws banning discrimination instead of forcing compliance through lawsuits. But employers may not have an incentive to comply with the law if there is lax EEOC enforcement.

Also, the EEOC process may discourage private legal action. EEOC sends a right to sue letter after it finds that there is no reasonable cause for discrimination. By that time, however, workers may be discouraged by the agency's dismissal of their complaint. The passage of time may also hamper further legal action.

There have been other setbacks. The EEOC had the same budget, adjusted for inflation, since 1980. It received an extra $16 million last year following an increase in complaints following the #Me Too movement.

Equal pay complaints had the highest success rate with 22.1 percent positive outcomes. Complaints over sex discrimination followed at 19.9 percent, religious with 18.2 percent, national origin had 17.2 percent and age discrimination was 16.2 percent. Racial discrimination success was lowest at 15.6 percent. Equal pay cases had the highest payout with an average of $30,600. Color and race had the lowest rate with $14,900.

Victims of workplace discrimination may need assistance to pursue their rights under Illinois and federal laws. An attorney can help them pursue legal action against employers who violate these laws.

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