New Mexico residents filed fewer civil rights complaints against their employers last year according to the federal agency in charge of regulating anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. New Mexico is not an outlier as the number of claims nationwide also declined, which has been the trend since 2010. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its report of claims enforcement data for fiscal year 2017, which ended in September.
Retaliation against workers for engaging in protected behaviors remain the most commonly cited category of claim with nearly half of all complaints (48.8%) asserting some sort of retaliatory action against employees. Retaliation is a non-specific claim that usually accompanies allegations of other discriminatory behavior such as racial, gender or age related discrimination which are the most common categories of specific rights violations reported to the agency. An employer is guilty of retaliating against an employee if it makes unfavorable employment decisions motivated by the employee’s having made complaints about the workplace environment. As part of its mission, the EEOC helped employees recover $398 million from employers while initiating 84, 254 claims in 2017. While overall numbers decreased from 2016, the percentage of claims related to sexual harassment and discrimination increased slightly, with 30.4% of all new claims asserting some sort of gender-based complaint.
While the EEOC numbers are instructive they do not paint the entire picture since the agency does not generally have jurisdiction over employers with fewer than fifteen (15) employees. Small businesses are not exempt from civil rights laws and are regulated by a combination of state-level agencies with which the EEOC has overlapping jurisdiction.
In order to recover for being subjected to inappropriate workplace behaviors, employees must comply with strict procedural guidelines. A confidential consultation with a qualified employment lawyer may clear up questions provide invaluable guidance for anyone concerned about their options regarding work environments.