[JURIST] The number of employment discrimination [JURIST news archive] charges against private employers filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] increased by 15 percent in 2008 [press release] to reach record highs, according to EEOC statistics [materials] released Wednesday. The EEOC cited several possible reasons for the increase, "including economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force, employees' greater awareness of the law, EEOC's focus on systemic litigation, and changes to EEOC's intake practices." Of the 95,402 complaints filed with the EEOC in 2008, 35.6 percent covered allegations of racial discrimination, and 29.7 percent were based on alleged sex discrimination. Charges of age discrimination, which comprised only 23.2 percent in 2007, increased to 25.8 percent in 2008, with some experts suggesting that this may be due to older workers being disproportionately terminated [AP report] as a result of the recent economic downturn.
Last March, the EEOC reported a 9 percent increase [press release; JURIST report] in employment discrimination charges for 2007, the biggest annual increase since the early 1990s. In February 2007, the EEOC reported an increase in discrimination charges for 2006 [press release] for the first time since 2002. In February 2006, the EEOC reported that discrimination charges against private employers declined by five percent in 2005 [press release; JURIST report], the third straight year the number of complaints fell. EEOC officials pointed to several factors as potential causes of the decrease, including the EEOC's outreach and prevention efforts as well as a general economic slowdown. The EEOC is charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws [EEOC materials] among private employers. The US Department of Justice enforces the federal anti-discrimination statutes for government workers.