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Why Are There More Workplace Discrimination Cases Than Ever?

The federal law commonly known as Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of their race, gender, religion, color and national origin. Discrimination based on disability and pregnancy, are protected under federal law as well. While many employers are more scrupulous about complying with the law than ever, the number of employment discrimination lawsuits is increasing.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2016, over a third of discrimination cases involved race. Disability wasn’t far behind, at just under 31 percent. Almost 30 percent involved sex. Close to 23 percent involved age.

One reason for the rise in legal actions may well be the increased awareness of anti-discrimination laws. While they’ve been around for decades, employees are becoming more knowledgeable about them. Discrimination and harassment cases have been getting considerably more media coverage — both in traditional news media and on social media.

Last year, The New York Times published more than 1,600 articles involving discrimination. The Washington Post had more than 2,000. While not all of these stories involved discrimination in the workplace, an overall increase in coverage of all kinds of discrimination can make it more recognizable when people see or experience it and prompt them to take action. Further, when people share their stories of discrimination on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, they can form bonds with others experiencing the same thing, which can help motivate them — and others — to take action.

Interestingly, the most common reason for discrimination cases in 2016 involved retaliation — employers or people within the company punishing people who come forward to report discrimination and other illegal activity. Many employers are anxious to sweep the problem under the rug. However, by penalizing those who report it, they may only be making things worse for themselves.

If you believe that you’ve been the victim of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation in the workplace and you haven’t been able to resolve the issue with your employer, you should find out what your rights are and if you can take legal action. An experienced Arizona employment law attorney is a good source of information and guidance.