The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been deluged with job discrimination claims, as more and more employees lose their jobs and workplace tensions rise. The commission has reported a record-breaking influx of filings: 95,402 for the 2008 fiscal year, a 15 percent jump from 2007.
"This is the highest number of charge filings we've had since we opened our doors in 1965," says David Grinberg, EEOC spokesman.
Most claimants said they had been wronged due to their race or gender. Notably, age-related claims were up 29 percent this year. When anyone files a claim, the EEOC will assess the merits of the claim and investigate it. The investigatory process involves interviewing and reviewing documentation.
While the EEOC process is designed to nab those who do flagrantly discriminate, it should safeguard employers from frivolous claims. Grinberg says that they've "certainly" seen cases of disgruntled laid-off workers who allege discrimination without just cause.
Luckily for employers, the burden is on the claimant to prove his or her case.
"It's a high threshold," says Grinberg. "You often need smoking gun evidence. Sixty percent of the time, we find there is, in fact, no reasonable cause to prove that discrimination took place," he says.
In order to avoid job bias conflicts altogether, Grinberg suggests that employers clarify zero-tolerance discrimination rules to the entire company in written policies. He also advises managers to take heed when making staff cuts to not inadvertently target one particular group.