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EEOC's Money Recoveries Plummet, Bias Charges Decline

Law360—Ben James

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administrative enforcement efforts brought back $76 million less in 2014 than in 2013 and the number of bias charges lodged with the agency dropped by nearly 5,000 claims, the EEOC said Tuesday.

The discrimination watchdog's performance and accountability report for the 2014 fiscal year — released Monday — said that mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement brought back $296.1 million in monetary relief for private sector workers, as well as those at state and local government workplaces.

Last year, the EEOC touted a record $372.1 million in monetary benefits stemming from private-sector administrative enforcement activities. Litigation recoveries, which an EEOC spokeswoman said were not included in the administrative enforcement figures, also dropped, going from $39 million in 2013 to $22.5 million in 2014.

The EEOC said in a statement Tuesday that it had to deal with the “lingering effects” of 2013's government shutdown and sequestration in fiscal 2014, which ended on Sept. 30.

"Despite these hurdles, the employees of the EEOC remain committed to meeting the needs, addressing the challenges, and seizing upon the opportunities of the 21st century workforce," EEOC Chair Jenny Yang said. "Increased hiring achieved at the end of [fiscal 2014] and investments in technology should enable us to more effectively investigate charges in a timely fashion, while also improving the quality of our intake and investigations."

EEOC charges — which neared the 100,000 mark in 2010, 2011 and 2012 — fell to 88,778 in 2014 from 93,727 in 2013.

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The number of merits lawsuits filed by the EEOC in 2014 was slightly up, at 133 as opposed to 2013's 131, but the agency filed 17 systemic lawsuits in 2014, four fewer than in the previous year. The number of systemic investigations shrunk from 300 in 2013 to 260 in 2014.

The systemic investigations led to more settlements or conciliation agreements —78 in 2014 as opposed  to 63 in 2013 — but brought back less money, with those 78 deals securing just $13 million in monetary relief as opposed to about $40 million stemming from the 63 deals the previous year.  

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The EEOC report said that the agency had met, partially met or exceeded targets in all of the 14 measures in its strategic plan for 2012-2016.

The agency, which wrapped up fiscal 2013 with 231 active cases on its docket, wrapped up 2014 with 228.

In addition to its monetary recoveries, the EEOC said it managed to secure equitable relief to remedy violations of anti-discrimination laws and stave off future misconduct.  The agency wants to change the American workplace for the better, said Outten & Golden LLP's Paul Mollica.

"It isn't just a question of bringing in more revenue," he said.