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Job discrimination claims in South Florida set new record in 2011

The Miami District of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported receiving their highest level of discrimination charges ever in 2011. South Florida workers filed 5,263 charges of discrimination, up from 5,077 in the previous year.

The majority of filings were charges of retaliation, race and sex discrimination. According to the director of the Miami Division of the EEOC, which encompasses nearly all of Florida excluding the panhandle, claims of discrimination have been on the rise since 2004. The increase is reportedly due to more people being aware of their rights under the law.

The report also stated that 40 percent of the charges were related to retaliation after employees complained of discriminatory practices or policies in the workplace. And, there was about a 23 percent increase in age discrimination in 2011, up from about 22 percent in 2010, with age and sex discrimination combining to make up 30 percent of all charges last year.

Retaliation claims can include charges of receiving adverse treatment such as a reduction in pay, demotion or termination for any number of activities, including reporting safety violations to government agencies and refusing the sexual advances of a supervisor.

Complaints of sexual harassment can also be a very sensitive topic affecting both the employee's reputation as well as that of his or her employer, especially if it is a high profile case and thus subject to the court of public opinion. Sexual harassment can include anything from a request for sexual favors in exchange for special consideration for a promotion, increase in pay or continued employment to a hostile work environment that includes risqué jokes or innuendo.

South Florida's levels and types of reported discrimination claims are in line with the nation's average overall. As we previously discussed in our Broward County Employment Law Blog, with charges of employment discrimination reaching close to 100,000 nationally in 2011, these are the highest numbers in the EEOC's 46-year history.

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "South Florida job discrimination charges set record," Marcia Heroux Pounds, Feb. 25, 2012

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