On November 15, the EEOC issued its 2017 annual Performance and Accountability Report, providing details and statistics regarding the Commission’s performance and goals during the period of October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017.
As documented in the Report, the Commission’s key achievements were the reduction in the charge inventory or “backlog” of pending charges and the increase in the number of lawsuits the Commission filed against employers on behalf of employees. The Report also notes that the Commission increased its percentage of “systemic” suits filed – “pattern or practice, policy, or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on the industry, occupation, or geographic area.” Other accomplishments outlined in the Report include continuing development of the Digital Charge System, which allows employers to receive and submit charge-related documents electronically, and launching an initiative to promote the employment of disabled veterans.
The Report indicates that the EEOC received more than 540,000 calls and over 155,000 inquiries to field offices from employees in fiscal year 2017. These calls and inquiries converted to 84,252 filed charges, approximately 7,000 fewer than the prior year. Despite the decrease in filed charges, the EEOC filed 184 merits lawsuits in FY 2017, more than doubling the figure from the previous year. Of these 184 lawsuits, 124 were on behalf of individuals, 30 were non-systemic suits with multiple victims, and 30 were systemic claims. The 30 systemic lawsuits represent a significant increase compared to recent years (18 in FY 2016 and 16 in FY 2015), but actually account for a smaller percentage of all lawsuits filed compared to the previous year (16% of all lawsuits in FY 2017 vs. 20% in FY 2016).
The Report also notes that the EEOC resolved 99,109 charges—1,600 more than it did in fiscal year 2016—and as a result, decreased its charge inventory, or backlog, by 16.2%, to the lowest level of charge inventory in a decade. The reduction in backlog, according to the Report, is a result of the EEOC’s greater focus on inventory reduction strategies and “priority charge handling procedures,” technological efficiency, and increased staffing, as well as a fewer charge filings.
The goals and metrics detailed in the Report are assessed in relation to the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, which was approved and implemented for fiscal years 2013-2016. Part of the Commission’s plan for the upcoming year will be to develop a new strategic enforcement plan. If the latest Performance and Accountability Report is any indication, the EEOC will likely continue to use a substantial portion of its resources to prioritize potentially high-value cases while reducing its inventory of pending charges. Employers should be mindful of the renewed focus on inventory reduction and apparent increased appetite for merits lawsuits when interacting with the EEOC.