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Federal Agency Recovers Record $535 Million for Victims of Workplace Discrimination

February 15, 2021


Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

In fiscal year 2020, the EEOC set a record on its employment discrimination recoveries.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal employment protections, including workplace discrimination laws. 

Despite the pandemic, 2020 represented a watershed year for the EEOC. In its annual performance report, the EEOC reported over $535.4 million recovered for victims of workplace discrimination. 

The EEOC and Employment Laws

The EEOC investigates violations of federal employment laws and recovers money for victims of discrimination and sexual harassment. 

Several types of employment violations fall under the EEOC’s enforcement, including sex discrimination, race and color discrimination, age discrimination, and disability discrimination. The EEOC also investigates sexual harassment, hostile work environments, and workplace harassment.

Victims of discrimination in the workplace can file a complaint with the EEOC. The agency then conducts an investigation. If the EEOC finds evidence of discrimination, they can recover money for the victim through mediation, enforcement, or litigation. 

The Record-Breaking $535 Million in Recoveries

In a Jan. 2021 report, the EEOC broke down its 2020 recoveries for discrimination in the workplace. 

In total, the agency recovered over $535.4 million for victims of discrimination. That total includes $333.2 million for employees in the private sector or those working for state and local government. 

These EEOC recoveries came through a mix of mediation, conciliation, and administrative enforcement.

In addition, the EEOC recovered $106 million through its litigation efforts. This represents the highest litigation recovery since 2004. The EEOC reported a 96% success rate in district court cases in 2020. 

Finally, the EEOC recovered $96.2 million for federal employees. 

Putting the EEOC’s $535 Million in Context

The $535 million recovered by the EEOC in 2020 represented an increase over the previous year. In 2019, the EEOC recovered $486 million for victims of discrimination. 

The 2019 recoveries included $346.6 million for private sector and state and local employees, $39.1 million through litigation, and $100.6 million for federal employees. 

The $535 million reported by the EEOC represents only part of the recovery for discrimination victims in 2020. The EEOC reports on its direct mediations and litigation efforts. 

However, the EEOC also awards a Notice of Right to Sue for discrimination victims who can file their case in court. Other discrimination victims contact employment lawyers directly instead of first filing with the EEOC. 

As a result, the $535 million recovered by the EEOC represents only a fraction of the money awarded to victims of workplace discrimination in 2020.

Filing an EEOC Complaint

The EEOC accepts complaints about workplace discrimination in several formats. Victims can file a complaint on the EEOC website. They can also submit their complaint through the mail or call the EEOC. 

An employment lawyer can help navigate the process of filing a complaint and following up on the EEOC findings. 

Keep in mind that federal laws set a statute of limitations to file a complaint. In some cases, victims must file their complaint within 180 days of the discrimination. 

After receiving a complaint, the EEOC conducts an investigation. If the agency finds evidence of a violation, they may pursue relief through mediation or litigation. However, even if the EEOC investigation does not find a violation, victims of workplace discrimination can still file a lawsuit against their employer. 

Learn more about the process of filing an EEOC complaint. In New York, victims of discrimination at work have additional options to file a discrimination complaint


Working Now and Then was founded by Charles Joseph, who has over two decades of experience in employment law. He is the founding partner of Joseph and Kirschenbaum, a firm that has recovered over $140 million for clients.

Contact Working Now and Then for a free consultation to find out if you have a claim.