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EEOC report on workplace discrimination

Employers in New York and around the country likely know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advocated vigorously for extending the scope of federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace to cover gay and transgender workers. The EEOC provided insight into the current state of employment discrimination in a report released on June 20, and the federal agency says that about a third of the 90,000 or so discrimination complaints that it receives each year concern harassment in the workplace.

The report also reveals that up to 60 percent of American workers have been subjected to workplace discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. The agency used the case of a black truck driver to illustrate the challenges faced by many workers. The man was fired by a North Carolina transportation company after complaining about the relentless harassment he endured while on the job. He and a colleague were subsequently awarded damages of $200,000 in a harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC.

The harassment figures for gay and transgender workers are also disturbing. The EEOC report reveals that up to 58 percent of LGBT workers have had to contend with lewd comments from their colleagues, and 41 percent of the gay or transgender workers who answered an EEOC survey said that they had seen their work spaces vandalized or had been physically or verbally assaulted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Perhaps the most distressing of the EEOC report's findings revealed that three quarters of the workers who suffer discrimination while on the job suffer in silence and do not file complaints or speak with their managers or supervisors. Employment law attorneys will likely be familiar with this reluctance to come forward, and they may reassure workers who have been discriminated against that the law is on their side. Attorneys could also explain the severe sanctions that employers may face if they take retaliatory action against workers who report violations of federal law.

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