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How the EEOC Protects Workers

How the EEOC Protects Workers

Dan Woog / Monster

September 22, 2008

The American workplace has come a long way in the four decades since civil rights were first applied to employer-employee relationships. Specialists at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are charged with enforcing federal laws governing workplace discrimination. And despite all the changes since the ’60s, the EEOC still has plenty of work to do.

In fiscal year 2004, EEOC statistics revealed that the commission received:

• 27,696 charges of race discrimination.

• 24,249 charges of sex-based discrimination.

• 17,837 charges of age discrimination.

• 15,346 charges of disability discrimination.

• 13,136 charges of sexual harassment (15 percent of which were filed by males).

• 8,361 charges of national-origin discrimination.

• 4,512 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination.

• 2,466 charges of religious discrimination.

• 1,011 charges of compensation discrimination.

And this is just at the federal level. Many state and municipal antidiscrimination statutes go further than national regulations. For example, 17 states and Washington, DC, include sexual orientation as a protected class, although there are no such federal laws.

Of course, regulations and relief are two different things. Craig Pratt, an independent human relations management consultant in Oakland, urges employees who think they have been discriminated against to document everything. “Collect data, and find someone in your company to share concerns with — confidentially,” he says.

“The workplace has matured over the past few decades,” says Charles H. Fleischer, a Bethesda, Maryland, lawyer and author of The Complete Hiring and Firing Handbook. “More and more people are aware of problems with discrimination. But an employee who fails to complain early and doesn’t give his employer a chance to fix the situation lessens his chance to prevail.”

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