The Wall Street Journal reported today that claims of employment discrimination filed with the EEOC from November 2009 through April 2010, increased 60% over the same period one year ago, with 70,000 claims filed. Attorneys quoted in the article cited layoffs attributed to the economy as a major factor in this increase. For example, with an increase in layoffs, more employees who are in a "protected category" are bound to be among those terminated, and they are more likely to file claims of discrimination if a new job is not found quickly. One such category of claims relates to age, since older workers are sometimes over-represented in layoffs, even if unintentionally.
Another factor in this increase is the 2008 change in the federal age discrimination law. The law broadened the definition of disability and therefore put more pressure on employers to accommodate these employees. In a down economy, more employers are claiming that it is "too burdensome" to make the necessary accommodations, and are taking their chances and terminating such employees.
We have found an uptick in meritless claims filed by laid-off employees who have no other means of support, and seek to extract a possible settlement from employers by filing a simple and free EEOC claim.