According to its January 6, 2010 press release (here), the U.S. Equal Employment Commission announced that near record numbers of workplace discrimination charges were filed with the agency in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009. As reflected in the agency’s statistical presentation, there were 93,277 charges filed in FY 2009, which is the second-highest number the agency has recorded.


The highest annual number filings occurred in FY 2008, when 95,402 charges were filed. The FY 2009 filing levels were about 2.2% below the FY 2008 levels, but still well above any prior year. After 2008, the next closest year in terms of filing activity was FY 2002 (during the prior economic downturn), when there were 84,442 filings.


Consistent with recent historical trends, the most frequently alleged types of discrimination are race (36%), retaliation (36%) and sex-based discrimination. (A single charge filing may allege multiple types of discrimination.) Allegations based on age-based disability (up about 10%), religion (up 3%) and/or national origin (up 5%) hit record highs. Allegations of age-based discrimination reached the second-highest level ever.


The EEOC also reported that through its enforcement, mediation and litigation programs, the agency "recovered more than $376 million in monetary relief for thousands of discrimination victims."


The EEOC’s press release states that the "near-historic level of total discrimination charge filings [in FY 2009] may be due to multiple factors," including "greater accessibility of the EEOC to the public, economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force, [and] employees’ greater awareness of their rights under law."


The sustained record level of EEOC charge filings during the fiscal years 2008 and 2009 should be a matter of concern for every employer. These figures not only underscore the need for every employer to adopt and implement best employment practices, they also highlight the need for every employer to procure employment practices insurance as a critical and indispensible part of their insurance program.


The EEOC’s suggestion that the heightened level of filings of individual charges is due in part to the economic conditions and to employees’ greater awareness of their rights also suggests that, as the current economic downturn drags on, the elevated filing levels could continue for some time to come.


A January 6, 2010 National Law Journal article about the EEOC’s statistical release can be found here (registration required).


Another Securities Class Action Trial: We are all awaiting the outcome of the long running Vivendi trial, which is just wrapping up this week in the Southern District of New York. But while all eyes were on the Vivendi trial, few of us noted that another securities class action trial was going on in the Central District of California, in the American Mutual Funds Fee Litigation.


Kudos to Adam Savett of the Securities Litigation Watch blog, who first brought this development to my attention in his blog post here.


The case apparently went forward as a bench trial this past summer before Judge Gary Feess, whose December 28, 2009 post-trial Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law can be found here. Essentially, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had violated the federal securities laws by charging excessive advisory and distribution fees. Judge Feess concluded that the plaintiffs had not sustained their burden of proving that the fees were so "disproportionately large" that they bore "no reasonable relationship" to the services, as the plaintiffs were required to show in order to prevail.


As the Securities Litigation Watch details here, there have now been 22 post-1996 securities class action lawsuit cases that have gone to trial (not counting Vivendi), eight of which involved post-PSLRA conduct and that have actually gone to verdict. Taking into account post-verdict motions and appeals, the current scoreboard on these post-PSLRA lawsuit verdicts (according to the SLW’s data) now reads: Defendants 5, Plaintiffs 3. (Soon to be updated, I suppose, after the Vivendi jury reaches a verdict.)


Andrew Longstreth’s January 6, 2009 American Lawyer article about the American Mutual Funds Fee Litigation verdict can be found here.