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EEOC receives record number of discrimination complaints in 2011

Of the record 99,947 complaints the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received in 2011, nearly 40 percent pertained to retaliation. Discrimination on the basis of race and sex were second and third.

These numbers show us that although discrimination in the workplace is not the same problem is once was, it is still a major issue in South Florida and throughout the country. With diversity being promoted as a positive element in many workplaces and the evolution of civil rights, many direct forms of blatant discrimination have reduced over time, but unfortunately, more subtle and sometimes indirect forms of discrimination are still much too common.

Last year marked the second year in a row that the EOOC took in a record number of discrimination complaints. The EEOC pursues cases to enforce employee rights granted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination law.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, of course, protect Americans from employment discrimination. And, such discrimination can manifest itself in a variety of ways including: unfair or illegal hiring practices, disparities in employee promotions, salary or raises, differential treatment of employees, and wrongful termination.

Many Florida residents are probably less familiar with their rights under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. This law bans discrimination based on family medical history and other genetic information. Last year was the first full fiscal year that the agency fielded complaints based on this act; 245 charges were filed, but all have yet to be litigated.

In South Florida, employees are protected by both federal and state employment laws. Those who think they may be the victims of discrimination or other wrongdoing have the right to seek legal recourse.

Source: The Sacramento Business Journal, "EEOC gets record number of complaints; many were retaliation," Kathy Robertson, Feb. 1, 2012

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