- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) obtained a "record recovery" — more than $535 million — for alleged victims of discrimination in fiscal year 2020 and reduced its private-sector charge backlog to its lowest number in 14 years, the agency announced Nov. 16 in its annual financial report.
- The recovery included $333.2 million for employees and applicants in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement, and $106 million in monetary relief through litigation, EEOC said. Those total represented the agency's highest total since 2004, it added.
- Regarding its charge backlog, the commission said it "continues to make significant progress in managing pending inventories of charges, hearings and appeals." The agency said it reduced backlogged charges by 3.7% to 41,951.
"By strategically allocating resources, expanding our use of technology, and focusing hiring on front-line positions, the agency has been able to effectively manage its inventories," EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon said in a press release announcing the FY 2020 results. "This leads to better results for the public through increased merit factor and higher recoveries throughout our process," she continued.
It's not unusual for the agency to receive more charges than it can resolve in a year, but the commission's backlog has been the subject of criticism. Lawmakers in 2017 floated a bill that would have blocked new EEOC initiatives and instead required that it address its outstanding charges.
Now under republican control, the EEOC said early this year that it intends to focus on excellent customer service and "robust" compliance assistance; it also restated those priorities in the FY 2020 report. And it seems the numbers may illustrate some of that shift: Law firm Seyfarth Shaw noted in its annual analysis of EEOC lawsuits and noted that while legal filings generally peak at the end of the agency's fiscal year, it filed only 33 lawsuits in September and that the agency's total for the year was down significantly. The law firm said changes to EEOC programs, the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in agency leadership likely contributed to the drop.
Instead, the agency touted its mediation numbers. The EEOC conducted more than 6,700 successful mediations resulting in $156.6 million in benefits to charging parties without the need for "costly litigation," the agency said in a statement.