EEOC Reports Retaliation Most Common Complaint in 2018

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that retaliation complaints accounted for more than half of all EEO complaints for both federal and state employers. For the fiscal year ending 2018, 51.6 percent of all federal and 50.3 percent of all California EEO complaints were about retaliation.


Most people think retaliation is about one person, typically a supervisor, “getting back” at another subordinate employee.  According to the EEOC, retaliation occurs when an employer punishes “employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.  Asserting these EEO rights is called ‘protected activity.’”  Examples of “protected activity” include:

  • filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit

  • communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment

  • answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment

  • refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination

  • resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others

  • requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice

  • asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages

Often an EEO complaint will include several EEO violations, so the number of individual complaints exceeds the number of filings.  One complaint filed might have three or more violations.  This is shown in the chart below, which shows the percentage of charges of each EEO type.

*Percentages add up to more than 100 due to multiple charges in some filings

*Percentages add up to more than 100 due to multiple charges in some filings

In 2018, there were 90,588 charges of discrimination (down 19.5% from prior year) and more than $500 million awarded to victims of workplace discrimination. Nationally, retaliation accounted for 51.6% of all discrimination charges. In California it was just a hair more than half at 50.3 percent.

However, California complaints were down 20% in 2018.  The EEOC also concluded the #MeToo movement contributed to an increase in sexual harassment and retaliation claims during 2018.  Disability and race discrimination exceeded sexual harassment claims in California.  Follow this link for more information about litigation and enforcement statistics by state for the past ten years.

Discrimination and retaliation are not union issues. If you believe you have been or are being discriminated or retaliated against, you should immediately make a confidential report using the Human Resources discrimination complaint form.  The process is strictly confidential.  Of course, you may always contact your Chief Steward or any member of the Chapter Executive Board for advice.