A Publication of WTVP

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently reported that they received a total of 82,792 private sector discrimination complaints in the 2007 fiscal year, the highest volume of incoming charges since 2002 and the largest annual increase (nine percent) since the early 1990s. In addition, the data also reveals that the EEOC recovered $345 million in monetary relief for job bias victims.

Allegations of discrimination based on race, retaliation and sex were the most frequently filed charges, continuing a long-term trend. Additionally, nearly all major charge categories showed double-digit percentage increases from the prior year—a rare occurrence. The agency says that the jump in complaints may be due to a combination of factors, including greater awareness of the law, changing economic conditions and increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force.

Pregnancy-bias complaints surged to a record high level of 5,587, up 14 percent from the prior fiscal year’s record of 4,901. Sexual harassment filings increased for the first time since the 2000 fiscal year, numbering 12,510—up four percent from the prior fiscal year’s total of 12,025. Additionally, a record 16 percent of sexual harassment charges were filed by men, up from nine percent in the early 1990s.

At the state level, Illinois employers should also be concerned about an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (HB 1509) that went into effect on January 1st. This amendment allows employees to sue employers for discrimination or harassment in Illinois state courts and have access to a jury trial. Previously, claims had been limited to litigation through the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

As an Illinois employer, here a few tips to consider so you don’t become one of the statistics highlighted above or find yourself in front of a jury.

Also remember, as employers you are required to post notices to all employees advising them of their rights under the laws EEOC enforces and their right to be free from retaliation. Such notices must be accessible, as needed, to persons with visual or other disabilities that affect reading. For more information about the EEOC, visit their website at IBI