Employment-related retaliation charges increased by nearly 5 percent in 2015, and continue to be the leading category of discrimination charged filed by aggrieved individuals with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC received a total of 89,385 employment discrimination charges across the nation during its last fiscal year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015. Retaliation claims made up almost 45% of all complaints. The total of charges was significantly fewer than the 99,947 recorded in 2011.

Race-based charges were the second most often filed last year, about 35 percent of the total, followed by disability discrimination claims. Sex and age discrimination charges were fourth and fifth on the list.

The EEOC said in its annual report released on February 11 that it resolved 92,641 charges in fiscal year 2015, and secured more than $525 million for victims of discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation.

The agency filed 142 lawsuits against employers last year, up from 133 the previous year. The majority of the lawsuits filed alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by suits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This included 100 individual lawsuits and 42 lawsuits involving multiple victims of discriminatory policies, of which 16 were deemed to have involved “systemic” discrimination.

The agency listed the following “milestones” in its annual report:

  • In the Abercrombie case(EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, first filed in 2009), the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employer may not make a job applicant’s religious practices a factor in employment decisions, even if the employer only suspects that the practice is religious in nature;
  • The EEOC issued an updated pregnancy guidance to ensure that employers make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who need them to keep working;
  • The EEOC’s sexual harassment and retaliation case against New Breed Logistics resulted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling for the first time that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from retaliation for telling harassers to stop their harassment; and
  • The EEOC resolved a race discrimination case against BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC, in which the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ordered BMW to pay $1.6 million and provide job opportunities to the alleged victims. EEOC alleged that BMW excluded African-American logistics workers from employment at a disproportionate rate when the company’s new logistics contractor applied BMW’s criminal conviction records guidance to incumbent logistics employees.

The EEOC is currently in the process of soliciting public input on a proposed update of enforcement guidance addressing retaliation and other related issues. The effort is part of what the agency says is its commitment to inform the public about how it interprets the law and to promote voluntary compliance by employers.

The EEOC commemorated its 50th anniversary on July 2, 2015.