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What are the 4 most common reasons for discrimination lawsuits?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Employment Discrimination

Despite decades of efforts to eradicate employment discrimination, it continues to be an issue that has an unfair economic impact on countless workers in the United States every year. For every case of workplace discrimination that a worker reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and takes to court, there may be dozens of others that never see any litigation or public acknowledgment.

When looking at the discrimination cases that do go to court, certain trends emerge. Four types of discrimination, in particular, account for almost all of the lawsuits brought by the EEOC against employers in 2022.

Sex discrimination

Women have long faced an uphill battle when seeking well-paid roles at companies and prestigious positions. Even those who have proven themselves in the workplace may get passed over for promotions and big projects for the benefit of less experienced or successful male employees. Men can also experience sex discrimination. Sex discrimination, including a failure to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment, is the leading cause of EEOC lawsuits. In 2022, sex-based discrimination was responsible for 49.5% of the lawsuits filed.


The second most common reason for companies to face a discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC and an employee involves allegations of retaliation. Federal law protects workers against employers punishing them for using their employment rights. Whether a worker asked for FMLA leave, requested disability accommodations or spoke up about sexual harassment, they might need to take legal action if the company punishes them instead of responding appropriately. Retaliation claims were responsible for another 35.2% of the reported EEOC lawsuits.

Disability discrimination

There are many ways in which workers with disabling medical conditions may face discrimination. Some companies illegally factor in the medical condition of an employee when making decisions about who to hire or promote. Oftentimes, disability discrimination involves a company’s failure to accommodate a worker’s medical challenges. Firing a worker or continuing to impose the same job performance standards on them without accommodations after they request support could potentially constitute disability discrimination. Such cases accounted for 29.7% of the 2022 discrimination lawsuits filed.

Racial discrimination

Racial discrimination comes in many forms. It might involve promotion discrimination where only certain types of workers ever seem to move up at the company. It might involve colorism, where workers of the same race treat people differently based on their complexion. Even company policies related to appearance could potentially constitute racial discrimination in some cases. According to the EEOC, approximately 18.7% of the lawsuits brought in 2022 related to racial discrimination in the workplace.

Professionals who understand the most common forms of employer discrimination are in a better position to hold a company accountable for violating their rights. Speaking up about workplace discrimination can change a company’s culture and potentially lead to compensation for an affected worker.