For most workers who experience discrimination, the first step in seeking recourse is filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state and local partner agencies.

All cases filed All closed cases Did not get relief “No cause” finding issued Received relief Cases where discrimination was found

American workers alleged violations of federal anti-discrimination laws in more than 1 million cases filed with these agencies between fiscal years 2010 and 2017. One case can include allegations of various types of discrimination.

Each point on the screen represents 50 of these cases.

[Center for Public Integrity: Workplace discrimination cases]

Of those 1 million, nearly 930,000 cases had been closed as of January 2018, when this data was obtained.

In 82 percent of these cases, the worker did not receive any form of relief. Relief from employment discrimination can mean monetary compensation, either through a settlement or court action, or a change in work conditions, like providing physical accommodations for a worker who uses a wheelchair.

The most common outcome for complainants, occuring in nearly two-thirds of all closed cases, is a “no cause” finding. In most cases, this means the agencies did not determine whether discrimination occurred. This does not stop a complainant from taking the case to court.

Other reasons a complainant may not receive any form of relief include alleging violations that are not covered by federal employment discrimination laws, working for an employer with fewer than 15 employees or filing a complaint too late. Typically employees must file a complaint within 180 or 300 days of the date the discrimination took place.

For the 18 percent of workers who did see results through agency processes, relief came in a variety of forms, typically money or accommodations at work. Some of that assistance was the result of a settlement or mediation before the agencies reached a determination on the merits of the case.

In less than 2 percent of the cases, the agencies completed an investigation and determined that discrimination occurred, issuing a “reasonable cause” finding. But in more than half of the small number of cases in which a cause finding was issued, the worker received nothing (monetary or otherwise).

In some cases where workers received redress, it came only after the agency filed suit.

Among these 930,000 closed cases, the most commonly alleged forms of discrimination were retaliation, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, age discrimination and discrimination related to a disability or other medical condition.

The most frequently alleged types of discrimination

= 2,000 cases


Out of 357,958 closed cases: 17% received relief 2% had a discrimination finding

Racial discrimination

Out of 309,201 closed cases: 15% received relief 1% had a discrimination finding

Sex discrimination

Out of 268,660 closed cases: 19% received relief 2% had a discrimination finding

Disability or medical

Out of 252,599 closed cases: 21% received relief 2% had a discrimination finding


Out of 205,355 closed cases: 16% received relief 1% had a discrimination finding

*Workers and applicants can file retaliation complaints to the EEOC if they participate in any legally protected activity related to equal employment, including speaking up about discrimination, supporting a colleague’s discrimination complaint, requesting disability or religious accommodations, resisting sexual advances or seeking information about pay to uncover potential discrimination.

Within these broad categories, some specific allegations were far more likely to receive some form of relief. Cases that alleged discrimination on the basis of cancer received relief a quarter of the time, compared with only 12 percent of cases alleging equal pay discrimination for men.

Cases most likely to receive relief

= 2,000 cases



Religious discrimination against 7th Day Adventists

Cerebral Palsy

Cumulative Trauma Disorder


Out of 8,317 closed cases: 25% received relief 3% had a discrimination finding


Out of 35,676 closed cases: 24% received relief 3% had a discrimination finding

Religious discrimination against 7th Day Adventists

Out of 1,029 closed cases: 24% received relief 6% had a discrimination finding

Cerebral Palsy

Out of 701 closed cases: 23% received relief 4% had a discrimination finding

Cumulative Trauma Disorder

Out of 331 closed cases: 23% received relief 2% had a discrimination finding

One reason for the low relief rates is a lack of resources that forces the agency to be more selective in choosing which cases to pursue. Even as the workforce grew and the EEOC took on more responsibilities, its funding and staffing dropped.

Between fiscal years 1980 and 2017, the EEOC’s staffing declined by 39 percent, to 2,082. During that same period, the American workforce increased 50 percent.

Number of American workers for each EEOC staff member, 1980-2017







32,000 workers per

EEOC staff member





77,000 workers per

EEOC staff member

Have you experienced discrimination at work?

Share your story with the Center for Public Integrity.

Go to survey

About this story

To report this story, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed more than 3.7 million records of alleged discriminatory actions filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local fair employment practices agencies. Each record represents a single discriminatory action. A complainant often will allege that multiple discriminatory actions occurred. Agencies assign the same closure action (i.e., “no cause” finding, legal action taken, etc.) to all allegations that are part of the same case. The data is current as of January 2018 and encompasses complaints filed between Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2017. The code and data behind this story’s analysis is publicly available on GitHub.

Reporting and data analysis by Maryam Jameel and Joe Yerardi. Design and development by Leslie Shapiro.

Maryam Jameel ( is a Workers Rights Reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.

Joe Yerardi ( is a data reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.


Most Read

Follow Post Graphics