LAW WEEK COLORADO
Employers looking to get a big-picture sense of a federal agency’s priorities can often look to its enforcement data released each year. Sometimes, the numbers only tell part of the story, though, especially for a changing agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC on Jan. 18 released its litigation and enforcement data for fiscal year 2016, which included breakdowns of how many charges it received, under what bases of discrimination and how those charges were resolved. The data suggests that the EEOC made good on much of its Strategic Enforcement Plan in recent years. But new EEOC leadership coming under the Trump administration, including its newly named acting chair, might alter the agency’s enforcement priorities in years to come.
Perhaps most notably, the agency filed only two-thirds as many total lawsuits (114) in 2016 as it did the year before (174). But the EEOC’s growing reliance on out-of-court resolutions isn’t a new trend so much as an enduring one.
“What we’ve seen is the relative weight of the private resolutions with the EEOC,” said Tom Carroll, an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels. He noted the $350 million the agency recovered through mediation, conciliation and settlements compared to the $52 million it took in from lawsuits in 2016. He added that in Colorado, “there’s a prevailing attitude among employers that the EEOC has been aggressive in its private enforcement tactics.”