After several years of record charge filings, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finally saw a decrease in the number of charges filed by employees during the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2012 and ending September 30, 2013 (FY2013). During FY2013, the EEOC received 93,727 charges of discrimination. Although charge filings decreased by approximately 6,000 charges from the previous year, the EEOC still managed to obtain record monetary recoveries for charging parties.
The EEOC recently announced that, during FY2013, it obtained over $372 million in monetary awards for employees alleging unlawful workplace discrimination. This record amount of recoveries includes awards obtained though litigation, mediation, voluntary settlements and conciliations. The EEOC recovered the bulk of this money through its voluntary mediation program. Specifically, the EEOC obtained over $160 million for employees through this method. In comparison, the EEOC only recovered $39 million through its litigation efforts.
Employers, however, should not let these numbers lead them to believe that they can get a more favorable resolution through litigation than through mediation or informal settlements. The $39 million recovered through litigation is based on the resolution of 209 lawsuits (not all of these lawsuits resulted in verdicts in favor of the EEOC). The $160 million recovered through mediation, on the other hand, represents the successful resolution of 8,890 charges (another 2,623 mediations did not result in resolutions).
Further, litigating an employment discrimination claim is a costly proposition, whereas a successful mediation helps to avoid most of the costs of litigating such claims, especially if the parties agree to mediate early on in the process. More importantly, a successful mediation leads to the dismissal of the charge, which is an added benefit that is not guaranteed with informal settlements reached by the parties outside of mediation.
For these (372 million) reasons, employers should carefully consider all resolution options the next time they receive a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC.