The total number of findings that an agency discriminated against an employee or job applicant increased 39.4% from 175 in fiscal 2019 to 244 in 2020.

The total number of findings that an agency discriminated against an employee or job applicant increased 39.4% from 175 in fiscal 2019 to 244 in 2020. RapidEye / Getty Images

The Federal Government Paid Out Nearly $70 Million From Discrimination Cases in 2020

A majority of the 14,000 cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by federal workers alleged retaliation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday reported that in the final year of the Trump administration, the federal government paid out nearly $70 million in connection with discrimination complaints from federal workers and job applicants, even as the total number of cases filed continued to decline.

EEOC’s annual report on the federal workforce stated that federal agencies paid $66 million in monetary benefits through settlements and findings of discrimination at the complaint stage in fiscal 2020, which marks a 25% increase over the previous year. The government paid out $3.6 million in pre-complaint settlements in 2020, an increase from the $3.1 million paid in fiscal 2019.

The total number of findings that an agency discriminated against an employee or job applicant increased 39.4% from 175 in fiscal 2019 to 244 in 2020. That marks the highest number of cases where discrimination was substantiated since fiscal 2015.

Those increases occurred despite the fact that the total number of complaints filed with EEOC have been on the decline since fiscal 2018. Since hitting a peak of 15,578 formal complaints that year, 14,138 federal employees and job applicants filed complaints in fiscal 2019, and that number decreased further to 14,003 in fiscal 2020.

Of the 14,003 complaints, 7,506 alleged discrimination on the basis of reprisal or retaliation, followed by 4,221 allegations of age discrimination and 4,214 allegations of discrimination on the basis of a physical disability. In fourth place were complaints alleging race discrimination at 3,972, and 3,643 complaints alleged sex discrimination.

“The federal government is the nation’s largest employer, with over 2 million employees, and the EEOC’s annual report on the federal workforce helps measure the federal government’s progress in promoting equal employment opportunity,” said EEOC Chairwoman Charlotte Burrows in a statement. “Although only a snapshot, this data helps indicate how federal agencies can enhance their ongoing efforts to make the federal government a model employer free from unlawful discrimination.”

This year’s report marks a shift for EEOC, instead of issuing one report on EEOC complaints and broader demographic trends in the federal workforce, the agency split the two facets of the report into separate documents, which officials said will make the report “more concise and accessible” to readers.

The workforce demographics report said that although the federal government has made “significant progress” in promoting equal employment opportunity—and leads the private sector in some workforce diversity metrics—there is still more work to do.

In fiscal 2020, most race and ethnicity groups participated in the federal workforce at higher rates than in the private sector. Only white women, white men, and women of two or more races saw federal workforce participation rates decrease between fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2020. But much of that diversity is reflected in lower paying jobs.

“Most gender by race/ethnicity groups had their highest participation rates in the lower, General Schedule 1-10 grade band,” the report stated. “The exceptions were white men, Asian men, Asian women, and Hispanic/Latino men.”

EEOC recommended that agencies study successes like the recent rise in Latino federal employees to develop new tactics to improve recruitment of federal workers from other demographic groups whose participation lags behind the private sector.

“To achieve EEO within their ranks, federal agencies must identify and remedy the root cause of racial, ethnic and gender groups’ participations at rates below the [civilian labor force], particularly when these groups have decreasing participation rates,” the report states. “The increases in the participation rates of Hispanic/Latina women, [people with disabilities] and [people with targeted disabilities] are encouraging. Promising practices for recruitment and retention should be identified based on the increasing participation rates in these groups. Improved career development and mentoring programs may equalize grade band participation inequities.”