Co-authored by Gerald J. Maatman, Jr. and Christopher J. DeGroff

Information buried within the minutia of the EEOC’s recent budget proposal submitted to Congress [link to EEOC report] this past week is telling, and should be of concern to employers trying to stay clear of litigation with the Commission. It also underscores the EEOC’s commitment to its Systemic Initiative for investigating and bringing cases involving groups or classes of alleged victims of discrimination.

First are the raw numbers. The EEOC hopes to increase its budget and assign more front-line investigators to its administrative investigations of employers. President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget includes a 9.5-percent increase – $18 million dollars – over the EEOC’s actual budget for FY 2010. The agency has been operating under a continuing resolution in FY 2011, the most recent of which is scheduled to expire on March 4, 2011. The $385,520,000 allotted for the EEOC’s FY 2012 budget includes employment of 2,557 full-time equivalents (FTEs), a 9.2-percent increase over the 2,371 FTEs in the agency’s FY 2010 actual budget. A majority of the new hires will be on the front line of investigations.

Second are the reasons behind the numbers. The President’s budget states that the EEOC’s “priority for agency resources continues to be litigation of systemic cases …” Page 3 of the EEOC’s submittal explicitly asserts that it desires to “prioritize spending for the Systemic Initiative…[since] systemic cases generate substantial media and other public notice, [and] they help to deter other employers from engaging in similar prohibited conduct.” The EEOC’s submittal also declared at page 23 that it expects to file more lawsuits in 2011 and 2012, and to increase the number of systemic lawsuits on its docket.

Third is the detail behind the reasons. In its budget projections for FY 2011, the Obama administration estimates that the EEOC will receive 105,917 new private sector discrimination charges, topping last year’s record high of 99,922. The EEOC projects it will have a case backlog of 93,006 charges as of September. 30, 2011, the end of fiscal 2011. For fiscal 2012, the EEOC projects that it will receive 108,036 private sector charges and that EEOC will end FY 2012 with 100,834 pending charges in its backlog. These are increases upon the FY 2010 numbers, which saw the highest level of charges ever in the history of the Commission.

Finally, the EEOC’s submission also gives a wider view of its systemic litigation program in the coming year. The Commission’s submittal acknowledges at page 23 that ‘[a]s a greater proportion of [the EEOC’s] litigation docket is focused on systemic cases, the amount of resources needed to perform the work will rise.” The EEOC noted that its litigation costs have increased by over 70% in the last five years, and that it expects this trend to continue given the focus on systemic litigation.