By Jennifer Hicks


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will not go out of business. Charges of racial discrimination and sexual harassment have increased every single decade since Title VII was passed in 1964. The statistics are chilling:

  • Sexual harassment charges increased 146 percent between 1992 and 2001. They have increased 150,000 percent since 1980. (1)
  • Pregnancy discrimination charges increased 126 percent between 1992 and 2001. (2)
  • Sexual discrimination charges increased 112 percent during the same period. (3)
  • Racial discrimination charges increased 484 percent between the 1980-1989 decade and the 1990-1999 decade. (4)
  • National origin charges increased 112 percent in the period 1992-2001. (5)

What’s worse is that the above numbers account for only some of the discrimination suits that have been filed Not all complaints go through the EEOC; some are filed independently.

Historical Background

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 precludes any form of employment-related discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Since its enactment, employment-related discrimination suits have climbed more than 100 percent per decade. And, before you think that this statistic merely reflects a litigious society in general, keep in mind that civil case filings in the federal courts between 1990 and 2000 showed only a 20 percent increase.

Why the Increase in Discrimination Suits?

Researchers John Donohue and Peter Siegelman suggest that two reasons exist for this increase in discrimination lawsuits:

  • the increase in the number of non-whites and women in professional and managerial positions
  • the increasingly integrated character of the workplace, making it easier to observe unfair practices against a particular group or groups

Certainly each statement has merit and could indeed be perceived as contributing to an increase in awareness of discriminatory practices. In addition, a couple of surveys on racist attitudes show that such attitudes have diminished over time.

But a National Opinion Research Center survey, judged to be more accurate since it used a seven-point scale, concludes “most Americans see most minority groups in a decidedly negative light on a number of important characteristics….[and] ethnic images remain important determinants of inter-group attitudes.”

Combine the above findings with the following:

  • The number of hate groups in the United States jumped by approximately 10% in the year 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • In seven of the ten industries studied by the General Accounting Office, the wage gapbetween male and female managers widened between 1995 and 2000.
  • There were 645 bias incidents between September 11 and September 17, 2002. These incidents ranged in severity from racist jokes to assault, arson, and shootings. The victims were often Americans of South Asian or Middle Eastern heritage.
  • A National Urban League survey of African Americans under age 35 found the single most important problem facing blacks was racism and discrimination.
  • The Harvard University Civil Rights Project found that 70% of the nation’s black students go to predominantly minority schools; 37% of Latino students attend schools where 90% to 100% of the students are also minorities; white students tend to go to schools where more than 80% of the students are also white
  • “There is one final reason for forgetting indigenous people. Our crimes against them are too horrible to contemplate… [T]he American nation in essence conducted a two century war against the indigenous people (ethnic cleansing in which blacks also participated) which didn’t end until Wounded Knee. That’s pretty hard to contemplate and mighty expensive to deal with. So the problem is swept under the enormous rug of American fantasy and forgetfulness.” – Roger Wilkins, professor at George Mason University

When taken in context, then, the meteoric rise in employment-related discrimination and harassment suits clearly isn’t just about an increase in the diversity of the workforce.

In fact, it looks increasingly as if racist and misogynist attitudes are on the rise.


Sexual Discrimination Suits Suits Affecting African Americans Suits Affecting Asian Americans
Suits Affecting Hispanic Americans Suits Affecting American Indians General Harassment and Discrimination Suits

Sexual Discrimination Suits

1. Hundreds of women are celebrating their victory today in an historic gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. government by lobbying Congress. They are seeking approval of a bill that would average the income from their settlements over the number of years covered by back-pay awards in discrimination cases, rather than imposing taxes on the total award in the year it was received. (About the Voice of America suit) August 22, 2002

2. A state personnel director sued Florida in federal court Monday alleging she was the victim of gender discrimination and suffered in a work environment hostile to women. August 20, 2002

3. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Tracey Edmonds, and Edmonds Entertainment Groupare among those named in a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil economic duress, among other claims. Former Edmonds Entertainment Group employee Joie Binns filed the complaint on Wednesday (August 14) in the Los Angeles Superior Court. August 16, 2002

4. Morgan Stanley faces a discrimination lawsuit by a 59-year-old female vice president who says the largest U.S. securities firm by market value fosters sex and age bias. Barbara Fiebiger, who is seeking $25 million in damages, said in her lawsuit that she was passed over for promotions that went to younger male colleagues. August 15, 2002

5. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced an $875,000 settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit against Technicolor Videocassette, Inc. (TVI) at its Camarillo, Calif., video/DVD processing plant, on behalf of a class of women who alleged they were subjected to serious, mostly verbal, sexual harassmentand to retaliation. TVI is the leading global supplier and distributor of DVDs, CDs, and video cassettes. August 14, 2002

6. A former motel housekeeper has been awarded a $19,650 settlement from a sexual assault complaint filed on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit had been filed against Rest Well Corp., doing business as a Quality Inn/Econo Lodge, and YTD Brothers, doing business as a Days Inn. August 10, 2002

7. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing United Airlines over a ramp worker’s claims that she was sexually and racially harassed and retaliated against after she complained. June 28, 2002

8. American Express Financial Advisors Inc. will pay $31 million and institute changes as part of a settlement of a discrimination lawsuit. The case was brought in October 1999 by three advisors who claimed Minneapolis-based American Express Financial Advisors discriminated against them by paying them less than their male counterparts, giving them fewer training and mentoring opportunities and steered promising leads for potential clients to male advisors. June 17, 2002

9. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has settled a class action sexual harassment lawsuit by a group of female employees and one male employee against Starwood’s W Hotel Seattle, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under a consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, the hotel will pay $100,000 to three female employees. June 13, 2002

10. Longtime TV journalist Beverly Williams, who turned 55 three days ago, is suing her employer, KYW-TValleging race, sex and age discriminationMay 25, 2002

11. Employees of Charleston, W.Va., Hooters File Harassment Lawsuit — The owners and managers of the Hooters restaurant in Charleston routinely grope, proposition and abuse the women who work there, a Kanawha Circuit lawsuit filed Monday alleges…The suit also alleges that Cornett was a racist who fired women for giving birth to biracial babies. May 21, 2002

12. Women get $30 Million for Grocer Harassment: A jury awarded $30.6 million to six women who said they were subject to violent behavior and sexual harassment by a store director at Ralphs Grocery Co. in San Diego, California. May 7, 2002

13. The law firm headed by David Boies agreed yesterday to settle a lawsuit brought by two former employees who claimed that the firm had illegally discriminated against them and other female lawyers by paying them less than the men and restricting their career opportunities(registration required). April 26, 2002

14. American Home Products Corp.— now renamed Wyeth — and two divisions, Fort Dodge Animal Health and Fort Dodge Laboratories, based in Fort Dodge, Iowa, have signed a consent decree in federal court in Iowa, settling an EEOC sexual harassment complaint for $478,500March 18, 2002

15. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announces $47 million agreement in principle to settle claims of class-wide sex bias against Rent-a-CenterMarch 8, 2002

16. EEOC and Verizon settle pregnancy bias suit; thousands of women to receive benefits — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a major class action lawsuit alleging pregnancy discrimination against Verizon predecessor companies NYNEX and Bell AtlanticFebruary 26, 2002

17. Ford Motor Co. settled a lawsuit Wednesday with three women who said they weresexually harassed at a truck assembly plant for nearly three years and claimed the company did nothing about it. February 14, 2002

18. Dial Facing Sexual Harassment Suit [USA]: Women Ready to Testify in Key EEOC Action Against Company…Martinez is one of more than 100 women prepared to testify of ayears-long pattern of sexual harassment in a sweeping lawsuit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed in 1999 against Dial Corp. January 25, 2002

19. Three groups of female Boeing employees filed federal lawsuits Wednesday against the aerospace giant alleging gender discrimination, several months after a similar suit was filed in Seattle. January 16, 2002

Suits Affecting African Americans

1. A Waffle House franchisee has reached an agreement to dismiss a $275 million racial discrimination federal lawsuit filed against it last year by four blacks, company officials say.August 6, 2002

2. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found that Xerox Corp.discriminated against black employees — the second such finding in recent months, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. August 8, 2002

3. A nursing home that accused union organizers of using voodoo to frighten its Haitian-American employees into joining has been accused by federal officials of mistreating workers. The National Labor Relations Board said last month it found evidence of spying on workers, threats and unfair dismissals at Mount Sinai-St. Francis Nursing & Rehabilitation Centerin Miami. It granted four workers a Nov. 12 hearing before a labor judge. August 8, 2002

4. Evian bottler settles inherited discrimination suit — Groupe Danone SA, the bottler ofEvian water, will pay $1.25 million to settle claims of black delivery drivers who said they received less pay than their white counterparts…The federal agency began its investigation into what was then a McKesson Corp. unit after eight black employees in 1998 filed charges that the company assigned them less-profitable routes than their white colleagues. August 7, 2002

5. Charles Singleton, once the highest ranking African-American executive at Mellon Financial Corp., expects to file a lawsuit accusing his former employer of wrongful discrimination and terminationJuly 25, 2002

6. Chicago-based Sara Lee Foods Corp. has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle 139 separate race discrimination lawsuits brought by black workers at Hygrade Food Products Corp., a Sara Lee subsidiary, who said they were the victims of racially biased policies at a Philadelphia plant. May 29, 2002

7. More than 100 black employees who claimed they were unfairly denied promotions byNASA will divide $3.75 million in a settlement. May 28, 2002

8. Nearly 30 years after filing a class action suit charging the Library of Congress with discrimination, black employees are preparing to take legal action against the Library for failing to live up to the terms of a settlement reached eight years ago. Although the Library agreed to correct the problem after the original 1982 Cook v. Billington suit was settled in 1994, representatives of the Cook class plaintiffs accuse the Library of continuing to discriminate against them. April 10, 2002

9. Federal Lawsuit Seeks Slave Reparations from Three Companies &$151; Aetna Inc., CSX Corp., FleetBoston Financial CorpApril 18, 2002

10. Court approves $1.2 million settlement between EEOC and McKesson (McKesson Water Products Company, and Groupe Danone which acquired McKesson in 2000) for race discrimination — They claimed that McKesson assigned African-American drivers to routes in low-income neighborhoods, which were often less profitable than routes in affluent communities. Because pay and promotion were tied to the profitability of the routes, the African-American drivers received lower compensation and fewer promotions than those assigned to the affluent areas. March 6, 2002

11. EEOC [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] settles race and sex bias suit for $1 million against Optical Cable Corp. — EEOC’s suit alleged that Optical Cable violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to hire African-American applicants for a 10-year period, by assigning women to lower paying positions than their similarly situated male counterparts, and by wrongfully discharging a former African-American employee based on his race. February 21, 2002

12. The EEOC announced Friday that it had filed suit against Target Corp., alleging that the nationwide retailer has discriminated against African-Americans by not hiring them for entry-level management jobs in a region that includes 11 stores in Milwaukee, Madison and Delafield. February 9, 2002

13. The Social Security Administration has agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle alawsuit by 2,200 black male employees who accused the agency of discrimination, lawyers for the men said. January 15, 2002

General Discrimination

1. Company agrees to settlement of discrimination charges — The nation’s largest commercial printer (R.R. Donnelley & Sons) has agreed to spend $610,000 to settle allegations that it inadvertently discriminated against minority job applicants at two of its Pennsylvania printing plants. August. 5, 2002

2. General Cable Corp. and its General Cable Industries Inc. unit have settled a discrimination suit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Highland Ky.-based wire and cable manufacturers will pay $75,000 to two former employees who had accused the companies of race and national origin discrimination and retaliationJuly 1, 2002

3. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against Clayton, Mo.-based Metro Networks Communications and Westwood One Inc. for racial discrimination. June 28, 2002

4. A group of minority workers has filed a $7.4 billion lawsuit against General Motorssaying the automaker failed to prevent its employees from committing racial and sexual harassment at two facilities in Michigan. March 21, 2002

5. NPR settled a five-year-old racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit last week in which former Vice President for Cultural Programming Sandra Rattley accused the network of demoting and firing her for her vocal advocacy of diversity in staff and programming.

6. Past and present employees of MCI and WorldCom in Chicago have banded together with some 150 others across the nation to levy a class action lawsuit for having allegedlyfaced sex, race, disability, age and religious discrimination on a daily basis. April 3, 2002

Affecting Hispanic Americans

1. Members of the Latino Officers Association gathered to announce they are moving forward with an suit raised by 46 police officers looking to prove in court that the New York Police Department discriminated against them because of their raceAugust 9, 2002

2. The EEOC said the complaint alleges Cox Communications created a “hostile working environment” for Hispanic employees, failing to take appropriate corrective action to stop the hostile work environment and retaliating against workers for complaining about the discrimination. May 29, 2002

3. Information technology services company Keane Inc. agreed Wednesday to a $350,000 settlement with former employees who alleged they were racially harassed and discriminated against at work. May 29, 2002

4. Hispanic agents at the Customs Service filed a class action suit against the government last week alleging discrimination and unfair promotion practices dating back to the 1970sMay 17, 2002

5. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that Northern Harvest Furniture Inc. of Paris, Ill. incurred civil rights violations against former Latino employees.March 5, 2002

6. Enforcement of an English-only policy at a hair salon in North Riverside Park Mall has led to a $240,000 settlement against a national chain of salons on behalf of six former Hispanic employees. (registration required) July 30, 2002

Affecting Asian Americans

1. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. has been added to the list of defendants in a federal racial discrimination lawsuit filed by 12 former professional wrestlers against the company’s now-defunct World Championship Wrestling subsidiary. The wrestlers, all African-American or Asian, accuse the WCW and Turner of denying them the same opportunities for advancement available to white wrestlers and paying them less than white wrestlers. July 12, 2002

2. Airline Face Suits — Five passengers who were removed from or prevented from boarding flights last year after the September 11 terror attacks filed suit [June 4] against four major U.S. airlines, accusing them of racial profiling and discrimination. The separate suits were filed against Continental, American, United and Northwest airlines in federal courts, respectively, in Newark, Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Francisco. All of the plaintiffs are of Middle Eastern or Asian descent who had passed through enhanced airport security checks.June 4, 2002

3. Judge Clears Way for Boeing Discrim Suit — A Seattle judge granted class status to a group of Asian-American employees of Boeing Co. , clearing the way for a lawsuit seeking tens of millions over alleged discrimination, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said on Tuesday…The 55 initial plaintiffs are among some 1,500 Boeing engineers with ethnic ties to seven southern Asian countries who were unfairly denied pay raises and promotions, said their attorney. May 28, 2002

4. The nation’s three premier weapons laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories) have offered to change their hiring and promotion practices in exchange for the ending of a boycott by two Asian-American academic organizations, federal officials and the leader of the boycott said March 26, 2002

5. The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC) joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Service Employees International Union in a lawsuit that was filed today in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California,challenging the new requirement of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, that all baggage screeners must be U.S. Citizens. January 17, 2002

6. The problems included the exclusion of Asian-American names from the voter rolls, misspellings of their names, poll worker hostility, illegal demands for identification, poll workers’ poor knowledge of election procedures, shortage of language assistance, and confusion over polling sites.



Jennifer Hicks, a prolific writer with more than 700 articles to her credit, lives on beautiful Cape Cod. Her work, focusing primarily on cultural diversity, career issues, women’s issues, travel, recruiting, and technology, has appeared in the ‘Christian Science Monitor,’ ‘NetworkWorld,’ ‘Career Crossroads’, ‘Ecruiting Today,’ ‘HR Exchange,’ ‘Forbes,’ and dozens of other magazines, journals, books, and Web sites. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.