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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.

Title VII/ADA/ADEA/EPA: Statutes Enforced, Charge/Claim Statistics Kept

June 7, 2007

Dear :

Your e-mail letter to of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations has been referred to this office for a response. Specifically, you ask about the definition of “job/employment discrimination.” You also ask whether government agencies have conducted studies on the prevalence of and the ability to prove “job/employment discrimination” claims.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ' 2000e et seq., which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin; the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), 29 U.S.C. ' 206 (d), which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between employees who otherwise perform substantially equal work in the same establishment; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., which forbids employers from discriminating against persons age 40 and over on the basis of their age; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ' 12101 et seq., which bars employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of their disabilities; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. ' 791 et seq., which prohibits disability discrimination in federal employment.

Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA do not apply to very small employers. Title VII and the ADA cover only employers who employ 15 or more employees; the ADEA covers those who employ 20 or more employees. More detailed information about what the laws cover can be found at

Under these EEOC-enforced laws, employment discrimination means taking any adverse employment action against an employee because of his or her race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability. An adverse action may involve any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, pay, and all other terms or conditions of employment. Adverse actions also may include workplace harassment that is motivated by race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability, so long as the harassment is “severe or pervasive.” Finally, employment discrimination also means taking an adverse action in “retaliation” against an individual for opposing discrimination under the EEOC-enforced laws, or for participating in an EEO complaint process by, for example, filing a complaint or serving as a witness.

The federal government’s definition of employment discrimination additionally prohibits discrimination against certain employees on other bases such as marital status, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. The EEOC, however, does not enforce those provisions. For further information about such discrimination, consult the Office of Personnel Management’s web site. See, for example,

To pursue their rights under EEOC-enforced statutes, individuals must file a “charge” of discrimination with EEOC, unless their complaint involves the federal government, in which case they must file a complaint with the federal agency’s EEO office. The EEOC keeps a variety of statistics concerning the charges filed, such as the number of charges filed (75,768 in fiscal year (FY) 2006), resolved (74,308 in FY 2006), resolved with merit (16,510 in FY 2006), and benefits obtained through resolution ($229.9 million in FY 2006). Further statistical information may be found at The EEOC issues an annual report detailing similar information about complaints against the federal government, which is available at (the most recent publicly available report is for FY 2005). Other statistics concerning discrimination claims filed against the federal government can be found at

In response to your question about government studies, the EEOC does issue reports concerning the employment of women and minorities in particular industries, which are available at The EEOC does not issue reports concerning the prevalence of employment discrimination or the ability of plaintiffs to prove such discrimination, although legal academics perform such research. (For example, the Mental and Physical Disability Law Reporter issues an annual survey of employment discrimination claims litigated in U.S. courts). To find such research, we suggest that you visit a public law library.

Please note that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of ' 713 of Title VII or Section 10 of the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, as incorporated by § 7(e)(1) of the ADEA. We hope, however, that it has been helpful.

We hope this information is helpful to you.


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
Title VII/ADEA/EPA Division

This page was last modified on July 16, 2007.

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