EEOC Annual Report Suggest Employment Discrimination in the Federal Government is on the Rise

June 23, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

A recent report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests that employment discrimination in federal workplaces is on the rise. According to the EEOC’s summary of its Annual Report on the Federal Workforce for Fiscal Year 2020 (published in March 2023), three key metrics indicate an increase in workplace discrimination in the federal sector:

  • Findings of Discrimination – “The total number of findings of discrimination, including AJ decisions and final agency decisions, increased from 175 in FY 2019 to 244 in FY 2020.”
  • Pre-Settlement Payouts – “The total governmentwide pre-complaint settlement payout was about $3.6 million — up from $3.1 million in FY 2019.”
  • Total Monetary Benefits Awarded – “In FY 2020, the monetary benefits obtained through settlements and awarded for findings of discrimination at the complaint stage . . . amounted to over $66 million, a 25% increase since FY 2019.”

These are all significant increases. While they don’t necessarily indicate an increase in employment discrimination in the federal sector (for example, they could reflect an enhanced focus on combating discrimination), there are no clear alternative government-wide explanations for the time period covered by the EEOC’s report. The EEOC made some changes to its reporting processes in 2020; however, these changes would not have resulted in an increase in the number of findings and settlements awarded.

Despite these figures, the EEOC notes that “progress is evident” with regard to promoting equality within the federal employment sector. This appears to be based predominantly on increased diversity within the federal workforce. However, as the EEOC acknowledges, there is still much work to be done, and federal agencies must “continue to strive to achieve full [equal employment opportunity] and become model employers.”

The EEOC’s Data Show that Discrimination in the Federal Sector Remains a Very Real Concern

That federal agencies currently are not model employers—as recognized by the EEOC—is cause for concern. Simply put, there is no excuse for federal agencies to be anything but. Federal agencies have the resources they need to provide workplaces that are free from all forms of discrimination and harassment, and they have every incentive to do so. Yet, as the statistics above show, not only does discrimination in the federal workplace remain a significant concern, but it appears to be an increasing concern—at least as recently as 2020.

Part of the obligation to fight discrimination in the federal workplace falls on the EEOC itself. As the Commission states in its report, “The EEOC enforces Federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against or harass a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. . . . The EEOC’s responsibilities extend not only to private employers but also to agencies in the Federal Government.” The report then goes on to list the anti-discrimination statutes that fall within the EEOC’s enforcement jurisdiction and that apply to federal employers. These include:

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act)
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978 Amendment to Title VII)
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)

Together, these statutes prohibit a wide range of types of discrimination within federal agencies—and the EEOC exists to help ensure that federal employees receive the protections they provide.

However, based on the EEOC’s own data, it is clear that its current efforts are insufficient. While federal agencies also bear responsibility for providing workplaces that are free from discrimination, it is equally clear that many agencies are not prioritizing compliance and enforcement to the extent that they should.

These failures have real consequences.

Federal employees and job applicants who fall victim to discrimination can suffer financial and psychological consequences. If you lose a job opportunity, are denied employment, or receive a negative performance review or demotion for reasons unrelated to your qualifications, this can have profound impacts on your life. While laws exist to protect federal employees and job applicants from these impacts, it is clear that discriminatory thinking and discriminatory actions remain far too common.

What You Need to Know if You Suspect Discrimination as a Federal Employee or Job Applicant

As a federal employee or job applicant, you cannot protect yourself from discrimination. However, you can take action to protect yourself once you fall victim. The EEOC has a complaint process for handling federal discrimination claims, and federal employees and job applicants can go to court when necessary.

There are several potential ways to prove discrimination in federal employment, and if you believe you may have a claim, we encourage you to read our article on how federal workers can prove discrimination. We also encourage you to speak with an attorney promptly, as there are several key steps that you will want an attorney to handle on your behalf.

If you are a victim of federal employment discrimination, you may be entitled to various remedies. These may include job placement, reinstatement, back pay and additional damages—among others. When you speak with an attorney, your attorney will advise you of the options you have available and help you choose the best option for your individual circumstances.

There is no excuse for discrimination within the federal government. Yet, it is painfully clear that this is a problem that continues to persist. If you are a victim, you deserve to be heard, and you deserve to be made whole to the fullest extent possible.

Discuss Your Federal Employment Discrimination Claim with the Team at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

If you need to know more about your legal rights as a victim of employment discrimination in the federal sector, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To arrange a confidential initial consultation with attorney Jay W. Stafford and his team, please call 410-514-6099 or tell us how we can reach you online today.