On September 29th, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced its preliminary Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 litigation statistics. Overall, the EEOC significantly increased its litigation filings in 2023. This included several broadly impactful systemic cases. The 2023 litigation statistics cover virtually all statutes the EEOC enforces. This broad range of case filings informs and emphasizes the importance of the EEOC’s enforcement strategy moving forward. Last week, the EEOC released its FY 2024-2028 Strategic Enforcement Plan. This Strategic Enforcement Plan sets the EEOC’s specific subject matter priorities for the next four fiscal years.
EEOC FY 2023 Litigation Statistics
According to the EEOC’s preliminary FY 2023 litigation statistics, the agency filed 143 new employment discrimination lawsuits in the last fiscal year. This is a more than 50% increase in lawsuit filings over the previous fiscal year. The 2023 litigation statistics also included 32 non-systemic class lawsuits that sought relief for multiple harmed parties. Meanwhile, there were 86 total lawsuits seeking relief for individuals. Overall, the EEOC filed cases under all statutes in 2023. These cases also represented a broad array of issues, including the following:
- barriers within recruitment and hiring;
- protecting vulnerable individuals from underserved communities;
- qualification standards and policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities;
- the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term effects;
- advancing equal pay;
- combatting unlawful harassment; and
- preserving access to the legal system.
Systemic EEOC Lawsuits in FY 2023
The EEOC’s FY 2023 litigation statistics also include 25 systemic lawsuits. This is nearly double the number filed in each of the past three fiscal years. What’s more, 2023 had the largest number of systemic lawsuit filings in the past five fiscal years. The EEOC defines systemic cases as “pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic location.”
“Systemic” is also defined as a bias built into systems by way of work organization. It can also refer to structures that shape the work environment or employment prospects differently for different types of workers. Finally, “systemic” can be marked by patterns of behavior within organizations that disadvantage certain protected classes of employees and become harmful to productivity. The EEOC’s goal is to highlight the litigation statistics and, through strategic enforcement, target systemic discrimination to dismantle the pattern, practice, or policy that results in such discriminatory employment decisions.