Discrimination in the workplace became illegal when President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Order in September 1965. This order prohibited federal contractors from discriminated against job applicants or employees based on sex, race, color, religion or nation of origin. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment act added an applicant’s relatively advanced age to the list of factors that could not be help against them.
Since these important acts have passed, the United States has come a long way in our efforts to provide equal opportunities to all citizens. But how successful have we been? Statistics suggest that the struggle against job discrimination may be far from over.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, the entity in charge of hearing and deciding job discrimination claims, features the following numbers on their website:
In 2007, the EEOC received 2,880 complaints about religious discrimination in the workplace, an increase from 1997, a year that saw the EEOC received 1,709 complaints. Off all the complaints received last year, 194 were determined to have reasonable cause (which means the plaintiff was able to prove the discrimination they had experienced.)
Also in 2007, the committee received 30,510 reports of racial discrimination in the workplace. 998 plaintiffs were found to have reasonable cause to make their complaints. Again, the number of complaints had increased since 1997, when 29,199 complaints of racial discrimination were filed.
Unlike racial and religious discrimination, sex-based discrimination has not increased much in the last ten years. In 1997, 24,728 complaints were filed with the EEOC; in 2007, there were 24,826 complaints. Of the complaints made in 2007, 1,299 were found to have reasonable cause.
The percentage of plaintiffs who won their cases may seem small in these examples. However, discrimination can be very difficult to prove. Without some form of written or recorded documentation, there are very few ways to really demonstrate what a person has experienced. Additionally, many people who have experienced discrimination never file a formal charge. They may be worried about retaliation from their employers or convinced that they would not be able to prove their case anyway. A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com and Kelley Services reveals that 20 percent of American workers, or one in five, feels that they have been discriminated against at work. The most common complaints were being passed over for promotion, not receiving full credit for their work, and not having their concerns addressed seriously. For more information about this study, see the article on CareerBuilder’s web page.