Workplace-Bias Cases Rise in Colorado and Nationwide
Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 4:00 pm
DENVER, COLORADO—Claims of discrimination in the workplace have grown in Colorado at nearly triple the national rate over the past five years. Statistics issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission say that workplace-bias cases across the United States have increased by 17 percent since 2003, but the Colorado claims were up 46 percent.
After years of job discrimination numbers either holding steady or even declining, claims have jumped 15 percent nationwide since 2007, probably due to a combination of factors including the national economic crisis, awareness of employee rights, and an increase in federal investigations.
Colorado attorneys who specialize in discrimination cases have seen growth in a number of areas:
Bias against older workers, who often command a higher salary because of experience or longevity, in the wake of recession
Disability- and gender-discrimination claims from pregnant women, who feel their jobs have been cut in order to save medical or health insurance charges and decreases absenteeism after the end of maternity leave
Cases alleging discrimination against multiple sclerosis patients, or those whom employers anticipate will contract multiple sclerosis. Colorado rates among the world’s highest incidences of MS.
Additionally companies, in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation, are increasingly less able to adapt workplaces – to the needs of disabled employees whether through physical site improvements or diversity and sensitivity training for employees. Economic hardship and the need to cut costs wherever possible causes businesses to reconsider making accommodations for workers, even at the risk of discrimination.
Officials at the EEOC have instituted local outreach programs, intended to educate the disabled community about their rights under employment law. Moreover, they are stepping up efforts to prosecute employers accused of discrimination.
Nevertheless, local EEOC spokespeople warn that, although employees who feel they have been the victims of bias should file a complaint with authorities, every effort should be made to resolve the dispute before it goes to court. It is not their intent to burden the already overloaded judicial system with a barrage of cases.
National cases of employment discrimination topped 24,000 in 2008, whereas Colorado’s cases were tallied at just under 2,000. Growth in the number of workplace bias claims is due in large measure to rises in claims based on race, sex, and even retaliation against employees who had previously alleged bias against them by employers.
The EEOC also cautioned employers to carefully evaluate not only their budgets, but also the potential costs – both financial and in terms of employee retention and satisfaction – when making human resource decisions. Although hiring a younger and less skilled worker might seem to represent a bargain, this decision could have dramatic consequences down the road.