The EEOC’s 2023 Annual Performance Report Touts A Record $665 Million In Worker Recoveries

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Alex W. Karasik, and Christian J. Palacios

Duane Morris Takeaways:  On March 11, 2024, the EEOC published its Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Performance Report (FY 2023 APR), highlighting the Commission’s accomplishments for the previous year, including a record-breaking recovery of $665 million in monetary relief for over 22,000 workers, a near 30% increase for workers over Fiscal Year 2022.

Employers should take note of the Commission’s annual report, as it provides invaluable insight into the EEOC’s regulatory priorities, and highlights the significant degree of financial risk that companies face for failing to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws. It is a must read for corporate counsel, HR professional, and business leaders.

FY 2023 Statistical Highlights

The EEOC’s recovery of $665 million in monetary relief over the past fiscal year represents an increase of 29.5% compared to Fiscal Year 2022.  Specifically, the Commission secured approximately $440.5 million for 15,143 workers in the private sector and state and local governments and another $204 million for 5,943 federal employees and applicants.

Furthermore, the Commission reported having one of the most litigious years in recent memory, with 142 new lawsuits filed, marking a 50% increase from Fiscal Year 2022. Among these new lawsuits, 86 were filed on behalf of individuals, 32 were non-systemic suits involving multiple victims, and 25 were systemic suits addressing discriminatory policies or affecting multiple victims. These numbers show an agency flexing its litigation muscles.

The EEOC’s drastic increase in filings was accompanied by a corresponding increase in complaint activity, with 81,055 new discrimination charges received, 233,704 inquiries handled in field offices, and over 522,000 calls from the public, thereby demonstrating the efficacy of the Commission’s outreach and public education efforts.

Other performance highlights from the report included obtaining more than $22.6 million for 968 individuals in litigation, while resolving 98 lawsuits and achieving favorable results in 91% of all federal district court resolutions. The Commission further reduced its private and federal sector inventories by record levels.

Strategic Developments / Systemic Litigation

The Commission also reported significant progress in its “priority areas” for 2023, which included combatting systemic discrimination, preventing workplace harassment, advancing racial justice, remedying retaliation, advancing pay equity, promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (“DEIA”) in the workplace, and, significantly, embracing the use of technology, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other automated systems in employment decisions.

In 2023, the EEOC resolved over 370 systemic investigations on the merits, resulting in over $29 million in monetary benefits for victims of discrimination. The Commission also reported that its litigation program achieved a 100% success rate in its systemic case resolutions, obtaining over $11 million for 806 systemic discrimination victims, as well as substantial equitable relief.  Further, the Commission made outreach and education programs a priority in 2023, and specifically sought to reach vulnerable workers and underserved communities, including immigrant and farmworker communities, hosting over 680 events for these groups and partnering with over 1,120 organizations, reaching over 107,000 attendees.

Other Notable Developments

Beyond touting its monetary successes, and litigation accomplishments, the FY 2023 APR also highlights the newly enacted Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), which provides workers with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the ability to obtain reasonable accommodations, absent undue hardship to the employer.

The Commission began accepting PWFA charges on June 27, 2023 (the law’s effective date) and has conducted broad public outreach relating to employers’ compliance obligations under the new law.

Takeaways For Employers

The EEOC’s Report is akin to a litigation scorecard. By all accounts, 2023 was a record-breaking year for the EEOC. As demonstrated in the report, the Commission has pursued an increasingly aggressive and ambitious litigation strategy to achieve its regulatory goals, and had a great deal of success in obtaining financially significant monetary awards.  Employers should take note of these trends and be proactive in implementing risk-mitigation strategies and EEOC-compliant policies.

We anticipate that the EEOC will continue to aggressively pursue its strategic priority areas in 2024, which could shape out to be another precedent-setting year. We will continue to track EEOC litigation activity, and look forward to providing our blog readers with up-to-date analysis on the latest developments.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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