Published: February 21, 2020

On January 24, 2020, the EEOC released data on its 2019 charge filings.[1]  The EEOC reported that the total number of charges filed in 2019 declined by 4.8% (from 76,418 in 2018 to 72,675 in 2019).  Retaliation claims continued to predominate, with 53.8% percent of charges including allegations of retaliation.  Disability, race, and sex discrimination (including harassment) claims each accounted for slightly over 30% of total charges.

The EEOC’s 2019 charge statistics mirror the perceptions of respondents to a recent study conducted by DOAR, the nation’s top trial consulting company.  Respondents to the study perceived racial discrimination as most prevalent, followed very closely by sex discrimination.  Likewise, the high incidence of EEOC retaliation filings, which remained consistent for years, also tracks with DOAR’s findings – respondents believe that (1) fear of retaliation chills reporting, and (2) people who report discrimination or harassment are often subjected to retaliation.

Nationwide, the number of EEOC charges alleging sexual harassment dropped in 2019 by 1.2% (from 7,609 in 2018 to 7,514). While the percentage of overall EEOC charges alleging sexual harassment increased from 9.9% in 2018 to 10.3% in 2019, it did so only slightly.  In a corollary finding, in 2020, DOAR found that respondents’ estimates of sexual harassment prevalence stayed the same or dropped 2-3% percentage points than in previous years.

Geographic Trends

To get a better sense of the climate in the states where our clients most frequently litigate, DOAR took a deeper dive into the 2019 EEOC charge data:

Number of charges by state Type of charge: (Click on legend to switch category) Race Sex Equal Pay Act[3] Retaliation Count of filings

Number of charges by state
Type of charge:
(Click on legend to switch category)
Equal Pay Act[3]
Count of filings
  • 1
  • 1,000
  • 2,000
  • 3,000
  • 4,000
  • 5,000
  • 6,000
  • 7,000+

“Blue” states like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are widely recognized as the nation’s “hot beds” for employment litigation from a case filing and trial perspective primarily due to protective state laws. Yet, for the past ten years (2009-2019), only California and Illinois have consistently ranked amongst the states that produced the most EEOC charges alleging federal claims.[4] Thus, while “blue” states may be more lucrative fora for the plaintiffs’ bar (and, thus, the most dangerous for corporate America), discrimination and harassment – or the perception thereof – are widespread in all states, including populous “purple” and “red” locales without generous state worker protection laws and where only federal agencies and courts offer employees the opportunity for redress.  

WIT clients routinely litigate outside “blue” states, and in the future, we will expand our research into employee and juror attitudes towards workplace discrimination in key “purple” and “red” jurisdictions around the country. 

[1]The data referenced here reflects only charges filed with the EEOC under federal law and does not include charges filed with state deferral agencies under more protective state laws.

[2]Retaliation claims typically accompany other claims; accordingly, because one charge may assert multiple claims, the percentage of retaliation claims percentage of total claims broken out by protected characteristic.

[3]The law does not require Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) claims to be filed with the EEOC as a preliminary measure to litigation; notwithstanding, because facts underlying EPA claims will often support a Title VII sex discrimination claim and vice versa, they are frequently brought together and charging parties will name both statutes in the charge of discrimination.

[4] Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas also consistently report high numbers of charges.

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