- An uptick in activity from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates it will have a busy year, law firm Seyfarth Shaw said in a Sept. 30 analysis that accompanied the end of the agency’s fiscal year.
- EEOC typically finishes its fiscal year with a surge in lawsuits, Seyfarth said. But in FY 2020, it filed only 33 lawsuits in September. This year, it submitted 59, which mirrors previous activity; in September 2018 and 2019, it filed 84 and 52, respectively.
- The agency filed more lawsuits this past year than in 2020, bringing its yearly total up from 101 to 114. Still, it filed fewer total lawsuits than the last two years prior, Seyfarth said.
EEOC may be ramping up its legal activity after the tumult brought by a pandemic and a change in administrations, but employers may find it difficult to anticipate which issues the agency will focus on in 2022.
"Now that the new leadership regime and their structural changes are finally settling in to a world that remains hampered by a lingering global pandemic, employers find themselves once again looking out over an uncertain future of the employment landscape," Seyfarth said in its analysis. "It remains to be seen how new priorities and strategies will impact their businesses in FY 2022, especially when many businesses are shifting to remote work structures that may limit some of the common catalysts of workplace discrimination."
The breakdown of the types of lawsuits EEOC filed last year may indicate how its strategic priorities are shifting. According to Seyfarth, the distribution of cases by statute was comparable to that of 2020 and 2019. Cases filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made up the majority of all filings, 62%, and Americans with Disabilities Act cases made up the next most significant chunk at 36%.
The agency has given employers some notice of its current enforcement goals. Chair Charlotte Burrows said during an April American Bar Association conference that pay equity will be "front and center" for the agency under the Biden administration. She added that she will work to fortify the agency as an institution; she named staffing as an urgent focus, for instance.