The number of Tennessee residents filing employment claims for civil rights violations dropped in 2017 according to the federal agency in charge of enforcing laws against workplace discrimination. Numbers from the Equal Employment Opportunity Agency, or EEOC, show that 2,640 Volunteer State claims were filed in fiscal year 2017, which ended in September. That number is down from prior years and tracks national numbers, which also declined in volume across the board. The agency reports having helped recover $398 million for claimants in 2017, which is $84 million less than in 2016.
Retaliation remains the most commonly seen complaint in agency filings. Retaliation is a general claim that applies whenever an employer takes action against an employee for legally protected activities such as making complaints about harassment or filing a claim for benefits. Roughly half of all EEOC filings involve claims for retaliation. The second most commonly claimed category of violations is discrimination or harassment, which was alleged in one-third of all EEOC filings. In descending order, the most common complaints involved allegations related to discrimination or harassment based upon disability, gender, age, national origin and color.
While overall numbers are down, the percentage of claims specifically alleging gender or sex-based discrimination and harassment increased slightly in 2017 numbers, which do not reflect recent developments in public awareness of sexual harassment against women. The EEOC has overlapping jurisdiction with state agencies regarding enforcement of civil rights laws, and EEOC filings typically only involve employers with a minimum of 15 employees. Smaller businesses are not exempt from civil rights laws, but they are regulated by state-level agencies. EEOC data does not include claims filed against smaller employers.
When an employee has been subjected to workplace discrimination or harassment, there are strict guidelines and time limits for filing complaints. A qualified employment lawyer may be able to provide victims with guidance regarding all their options.