The number of workplace discrimination and harassment charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during Fiscal Year 2019 (which ended September 30, 2019) declined to the lowest level since at least FY 1997 (the earliest year reported on the agency’s website), according the EEOC’s recent statistical release. The number of charges overall had also declined in the 2018 fiscal year, but in 2018, the number of sexual harassment charges had increased, apparently in response to the #MeToo movement. However, in FY 2019, the number of sexual harassment charges also decreased as part of the overall decrease in the number of charges, suggesting that the impact of the #MeToo movement diminished during the most recent fiscal year. The agency’s January 24, 2020 press release about the charge statistics can be found here. The agency’s enforcement and litigation statistics can be found here.
The Overall Number of Charges Filed
According to the agency’s statistics, there were 72,675 discrimination charges filed in FY 2019, representing a decrease of 4.9% from the 76,418 filed in FY 2018, and a decrease of 13.7% from the 84,254 filed in FY 2017. The 72,675 charges in FY 2019 is also well below the 2008-2016 annual average of 94,000.
The 72,675 charges filed in FY 2019 is also the lowest annual number of charges in any year during the period FY 1997-FY 2019. Indeed, the FY 2019 total of 72,675 charges is well below the next lowest total during that period, the 75,428 charges filed in FY 2005. The number of charges filed with the EEOC has declined every year since FY 2016.
As was the case in connection with the reduced number of charges in FY 2018, the declining number of charges in 2019 undoubtedly is due to the low levels of unemployment. In a full-employment economy, many employees who are unhappy with conditions in the workplace can simply move on to a job with a different employer.
The Number of Sexual Harassment Charges Filed
Though the overall number of charges filed in FY 2018 also declined relative to the prior fiscal year, in 2018 the number of sexual harassment charges actually increased despite the overall decline. As discussed here, the increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2018 was attributed at the time to the #MeToo movement, which was very active during the 2018 fiscal year (that is, between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018).
However, in FY 2019, by contrast to FY 2018, the number of sexual harassment charges did not increase, but instead declined as part of the overall decreased in the number of charges filed during the year. In FY 2019, there were 7,514 sexual harassment charges filed, representing a slight (1.24%) decrease from the 7,609 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2018.
However, although the number of sexual harassment charges decreased between FY 2018 and FY 2019, the number of sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2019 still represented a significant increase compared to the number of sexual harassment charges filed in FYI 2017. The 7,514 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2019 represents a 12.1% increase over the 6,696 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2017. Thus while the impact of the #MeToo movement may have diminished somewhat during FY 2019 relative to FY 2018, it does seem as if the #MeToo movement was continuing to have some impact during FY 2019, at least when the FY 2018 filing statistics are compared to prior years.
The Top Five Bases of Charges Filed
While there is a great deal of focus on the sexual harassment charges as a result of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment allegations are far from the most frequently cited basis for a charge.
The top five bases for EEOC charges, described here by number of charges filed and percentage of the total that those charges represent: Retaliation, 39,100 (53.8 percent of all charges filed); Disability, 24,238 (33.4 percent); Race, 23,976 (33 percent); Sex, 23,532 (32.4%); and Age 15,573 (21.4). The percentages may add up to more than 100% because many charges allege multiple bases. These totals and percentages contrast to the totals of sexual harassment charges; again, there were 7,514 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2019, representing 10.3% of all charges.
The Number of Litigated Matters
The number of litigated matters that the EEOC brought decline significantly during FY 2019 relative to the prior year. In FY 2019, the agency filed 157 litigated matters, representing a decline of 27.6% relative to the 217 litigated matters the agency filed in FY 2018.
EEOC Charges Sorted by State
A useful tip: It is possible to sort the charge filings statistics by state on the EEOC’s website (here). The state sorts also allow the number of filings by state and by year, over time. The seven states with the highest volume of charges filed have remained unchanged for the last ten (10) years. Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina ranked in the top seven for charges filed during the period FY 2009 through FY 2019.
Readers interested in a more detailed analysis breakdown of the changes in the number of charges over time by bases alleged (with colorful charts )will want to refer to the February 7, 2020 post on the Employment and Labor Insider blog (here).