Despite receiving 20,857 complaints of age discrimination in employment 2016 (a 3.5% increase over 2015) the EEOC filed only two lawsuits with age discrimination claims in 2016.
That’s an 85.7% decrease from 2015.
In 2015, the EEOC filed 14 lawsuits with age discrimination claims, having received 20,144 complaints of age discrimination that year.
The EEOC generally filed fewer lawsuits in 2016, perhaps in keeping with its greater emphasis on strategic enforcement and mediation/conciliation. However, the steepest decline by far came with respect to age discrimination claims.
Here are the types and number of lawsuits filed by the EEOC in 2016 compared to 2015 and the percentage increase/decrease.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (race, sex, religion, color and national origin): 46 lawsuits in 2016 compared to 83 in 2015 (a decrease of 44.5%).
- Americans with Disability Act: 36 lawsuits in 2016 compared to 53 in 2015 (a decrease of 32%).
- Equal Pay Act: 5 lawsuits in 2016 compared to 7 in 2015 (a decrease of 28%).
- Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act : 2 in 2016 compared to 1 in 2015 (an increase of 50%).
It appears that 2016 marks the lowest number of lawsuits with age discrimination claims filed by the EEOC since it took over responsibility for enforcing the ADEA from the U.S. Department of Labor in 1978. It is certainly the lowest since 2002.
Astoundingly, the EEOC devoted the same degree of litigation effort to the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 as the ADEA, GINA prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information. Only 238 GINA complaints were lodged in 2016 but the EEOC filed two lawsuits with GINA claims last year.
The EEOC did little to help older workers in the Recession and continues to ignore age discrimination.
The largest number of EEOC lawsuits with age discrimination claims since 2002 was in 2006, when the EEOC filed 50 lawsuits with age discrimination claims. The number has decreased almost every year since then, even though the number of age discrimination complaints has never dipped below its pre-recession level of under 20,000.
Even with the supposed “recovery” since the recession, research continues to signal that age discrimination is a major problem for American workers. For example, a 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that involved sending out 40,000 resumes found significant evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women.
In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I question why older workers must file a complaint with the EEOC before they can proceed to federal court. I note the EEOC virtually ignored an unprecedented increase in age discrimination claims in the Recession and consistently devotes a disproportionately small percentage of its resources to age discrimination claims.
It’s almost as if the EEOC does not recognize that age discrimination is a serious civil rights violation that profoundly affects all workers – including older women and minorities. It causes terrible human suffering and, for many older Americans, contributes to poverty in old age.