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Federal job discrimination complaints hit record

March 12, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A record number of workers filed federal job discrimination complaints last year, with claims by older employees of unfair treatment showing the largest increase.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that it received more than 95,000 discrimination claims during the 2008 fiscal year, a 15% increase over the previous year.

Claims of age discrimination rose by 28.7%, with 24,582 claims, while allegations based on race, sex and retaliation also surged to record highs.

"The EEOC has not seen an increase of this magnitude in charges filed for many years," said the commission's acting chairman, Stuart J. Ishimaru. "While we do not know if it signifies a trend, it is clear that employment discrimination remains a persistent problem."

With the economy in recession and companies shedding millions of jobs, labor experts suggested that older workers may have suffered a disproportionate hit. Federal laws bar age discrimination against workers 40 and older.

"The economy is in meltdown mode, and from the point of view of the company, if you lay off an older worker the cost savings to you are much greater than if you lay off a younger worker," said Eileen Appelbaum, visiting scholar at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Allegations of race discrimination remained the most frequently filed complaint, accounting for 33,937 charges, or 35.6% of all filings last year. That was an 11% jump from 2007.

Retaliation was the second most frequent complaint, up 22.6% from the previous year. Sex discrimination complaints rose by 14%.

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