Workplace discrimination lawsuits are one of the most important avenues that California workers have to protect themselves. However, there are serious problems with recent government handling of these lawsuits and how likely they are to proceed.
Federal discrimination lawsuits
The federal agency in charge of workplace discrimination is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. The EEOC has historically had a large backlog of open cases that it has not successfully investigated. To address this issue, rather than beefing up its process, the EEOC has taken a different path– lowering the priority for many cases to a track that ensures they will never get even the beginning of an investigation.
Growing failures to act
The EEOC can now report that fewer cases are in their backlog, but at the expense of workers getting justice. Less than 15% of all cases the EEOC has on file lead to some kind of positive outcome for the workers who file them. Workplace discrimination can lead to many different negative outcomes for workers, and it is a serious problem if the federal agency responsible for addressing these cases consistently fails to follow through. The EEOC doesn’t have enough funding to keep up with the cases on file, and by effectively closing the cases by deprioritizing them, it can present better numbers to Congress. Those reports to Congress help determine the EEOC’s funding level, creating problematic incentives.
The EEOC is lagging far behind the number of cases of workplace discrimination filed with the agency. Without major reforms and new funding sources, the situation will not improve in the immediate future.