The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has tracked the
number of retaliation claims since 1992, has reported that claims including
a retaliation charge rose 23% this past year. The reasons for such a surge
in litigation differ according to the EEOC and the management-defending
law firms that challenge them in court.
Some law firms are blaming the current poor economy for the rise in lawsuits,
saying that many complaints come from laid off workers. Others point to
a recent 2006 Supreme Court decision that broadened the definition of
retaliation in this context, often making retaliation easier to prove
than discrimination by an employer. Some management-side law firms cite
increases from 21% in retaliation claims this past fiscal year, and some
say that 70% of discrimination suits handled by their firm include a retaliation claim.
The EEOC is focusing on
retaliation-based complaints as their top priority. Carolyn Wheeler, an EEOC assistant
general counsel says enforcement of anti-discrimination law "depends
totally on people coming to file complaints. If people don't feel
free to do that , these laws don't get enforced."