Disability Discrimination Is Still A Priority Issue For The EEOC

By: Karen L. Piper

On November 15, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued its Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Performance and Accountability Report.  The report mentioned that the EEOC had launched a new nationwide public portal designed to provide greater public access to its services.  Individuals now can use the portal to locate an EEOC office; inquire about filing a charge; and check on the status of a pending charge.  An individual also can fill out an intake questionnaire through the portal.  This generally is the first step in filing a charge.  It is expected that the convenience and ease of using the portal will increase the number of EEOC charges filed in the future.

The launch of this new portal may reverse the progress made by the EEOC in reducing the backlog of pending EEOC charges.  The 2017 Report announced that the EEOC had made a substantial reduction – 16.2% – in its backlog of pending charges.  As of September 30, 2017, the inventory of pending EEOC charges was 61,621 – the lowest the inventory has been in over 10 years.

Also noteworthy in the report was the dramatic increase in the filing of merits litigation, i.e., lawsuits based on the merits of a discrimination claim.  The EEOC more than doubled the filing of new merits lawsuits in Fiscal Year 2017.  In 2017, the EEOC filed 184 such lawsuits, compared with 86 lawsuits in 2016 and 142 lawsuits in 2015.  It should be noted that 75 of the 2017 lawsuits, or 41%, involved claims of disability discrimination.  Disability discrimination is still a priority issue for the EEOC.

Employers are advised to pay close attention to employee requests for accommodation in 2018 and to consult with experienced employment counsel, such as the author, as needed, to avoid becoming a charge or litigation statistic in the EEOC’s 2018 Annual Report.

This article was written by Karen L. Piper, who is Secretary of the Board of Detroit SHRM, a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, and a Member of Bodman PLC, which represents employers, only, in Workplace Law. Ms. Piper can be reached at Bodman’s Troy office at (248) 743-6025 or kpiper@bodmanlaw.com. For further information, go to: http://www.bodmanlaw.com/attorneys/karen-l-piper.

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