The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the agency that is responsible for enforcing the Federal prohibitions against discrimination has been hit very hard by the Government shut down. In fact, for all intents and purposes, the EEOC has virtually shut down during this period. That means that, while a Charge of Discrimination may still be filed (so as to preserve time limitations), the Charge is likely to sit for months for processing.
As a reminder, the following statistics show the EEOC caseload during the last reporting period: The FY 2017 data show that retaliation was the most frequently filed charge filed with the agency, followed by race and disability. The agency also received 6,696 sexual harassment charges and obtained $46.3 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment.
Specifically, the charge numbers show the following breakdowns by bases alleged, in descending order:
- Retaliation: 41,097 (48.8 percent of all charges filed)
- Race: 28,528 (33.9 percent)
- Disability: 26,838 (31.9 percent)
- Sex: 25,605 (30.4 percent)
- Age: 18,376 (21.8 percent)
- National Origin: 8,299 (9.8 percent)
- Religion: 3,436 (4.1 percent)
- Color: 3,240 (3.8 percent)
- Equal Pay Act: 996 (1.2 percent)
- Genetic Information: 206 (.2 percent)
While other workplace law agencies such as the USDOL and NLRB are humming along like usual, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been ravaged by this shutdown because the minibus funding package did not include any money for the civil rights agency. In accordance with its contingency plan released last month, its workforce of over 2,000 employees has been dramatically scaled back to only 103 staffers—some of whom are working on a part-time basis. Because of this, only a limited number of EEOC services are currently available.
There is a skeleton crew of 61 staff members working in field offices across the country receiving charges of discrimination, but they do not have the time or resources to begin or continue any investigations. If the 2013 shutdown is any indication, this backlog will present the agency with challenges once the government reopens its doors. During that 16-day shutdown, the EEOC received over 3,100 charges of discrimination, and the resulting logjam took over a month to work through. We have no indication of how many charges have been filed during the past few weeks (because those who would be doing the counting are not able to do their jobs), but no doubt there will be a significant workload awaiting agency staffers when they finally return.
Meanwhile, employers who have questions about pending or closed charges are unable to receive information during this blackout period, with the electronic portal blocked for all those attempting to access it. All mediations and hearings scheduled to take place during the shutdown have been cancelled, and any litigation directly involving the EEOC as a party is suspended unless the relevant court does not grant a requested continuance.
However, according to the EEOC website, individuals who believe they were subjected to discrimination in the workplace are being counseled to continue to file charges during the agency’s closure in order to ensure that statutes of limitation are not blown. The agency specifically says that time limits may not be extended because of the shutdown.
With over 34 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at www.boznoslawoffice.com/contact-us through our website.