WASHINGTON – Federal job discrimination complaints filed by workers against private employers shot up 9 percent last year, the biggest annual increase since the early 1990s.
The data being released Wednesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show allegations of discrimination based on race, retaliation and sex were the most frequent, continuing a long-term trend.
Overall, the commission said complaints increased from 75,768 charges filed in 2006, to 82,792 last fiscal year. That's the highest complaint level since 2002, and the biggest annual percentage increase since 1993.
"Corporate America needs to do a better job of proactively preventing discrimination and addressing complaints promptly and effectively," said the commission chairwoman, Naomi Earp.
Complaints had been trending downward until 2006, when they increased slightly and then spiked last year. "It's possible that there's a trend developing here and employers need to be aware of this," said commission spokesman David B. Grinberg.
Allegations of discrimination based on race were the leading category of complaints — 30,510 in all, or 37 percent of all filings last year, said the commission, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws among private employers.
Charges based on retaliation accounted for 26,663 of the complaints, about 32 percent of all filings with the commission. For the first time retaliation was the second most frequent complaint, surpassing sex-based charges. Retaliation charges were up 18 percent from the previous year.
Sex discrimination complaints totaled 24,826 of the filings, 30 percent of the overall cases.
Several other categories tracked by the commission also saw double-digit percentage increases from the previous year, including complaints about age and disability discrimination. Complaints about discrimination based on pregnancy saw a big increase, up 14 percent to 5,587 charges last year — a record high.
The only major category to see a decrease was complaints involving equal pay, which slipped from 861 in 2006 to 818 last year, accounting for one percent of all cases filed.
During 2007, 72,442 private sector discrimination complaints were resolved; the commission recovered approximately $345 million in compensation for those who had filed discrimination charges.