Whether there is a direct correlation between lower DEI investments and higher discrimination lawsuits is to be determined. Nonetheless, the data is the data. More specifically, the data shows that the 3-year period between 2020 and 2022, the number of EEOC workplace discrimination lawsuits filed decreased between 24% and 58% from the level of lawsuits filed by the EEOC in 2019. Then on September 29, 2023 (the EEOC's fiscal year runs October 1 through September 30), the EEOC preliminarily reported that FY23 showed a greater than 50% year-over-year increase in workplace discrimination lawsuits filed; the total number of FY23 lawsuits is estimated at 143 as compared to the 91 workplace discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC in FY22. The most workplace discrimination lawsuits filed between 2020 and 2022 was 116 lawsuits in 2021. The greatest number of workplace discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC prior to 2021 was 144 lawsuits in 2019 (pre-George Floyd).
Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, many reputable sources reported an unprecedented commitment by corporate organizations to invest in DEI efforts; the total corporate investment commitments were estimated to have been in the billions of dollars. By the end of 2023, some sources reported an estimated 20% cut in DEI roles from the prior year. Moreover, it is reported that some DEI budgets were hit with cuts as high as 90%, particularly in the tech industry. The DEI budget cuts may have, in part, been driven by the mass layoffs due to the economic downturn in 2023. TechCrunch reported over 200,000 layoffs across the board (beyond DEI roles) in the tech industry, although other industries were also hit hard by mass layoffs generally as well (also beyond DEI roles) such as retail, healthcare, and media according to other sources. Given the level of mass layoffs in 2023, this was, no doubt, a contributing factor to influence budget cuts generally. For example, in the first 3 quarters of 2023, there was an approximate 200% increase in all layoffs across industries over the same period in the prior year. Nonetheless, the impact on DEI was significant with reports showing a 44% decrease in DEI-related total job postings in 2023.
Ironically, new EEOC discrimination lawsuits soared in FY23 compared to FY22, increasing by more than 50% year over year. Between FY22 and FY21, the increase in new EEOC discrimination lawsuits was just around 20%. So FY23 resulted in a 30% higher year-over-year increase in new workplace discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC. What’s interesting is that the total number of all workplace discrimination lawsuits in 2023 are almost the same as in the year immediately preceding George Floyd’s murder, representing 143 and 144 EEOC workplace discrimination lawsuits filed in 2023 and 2019 respectively. What’s even more interesting is the rising tide to quell DEI amidst the significant increase in workplace discrimination in 2023. When done right and with a data-driven approach, DEI’s core objective is to mitigate risks of discrimination, unfairness, and other adverse workplace experiences. With the optics of the number of EEOC discrimination lawsuits in 2023 rising to the same level of lawsuits in 2019, it calls into question whether now is the time to do away with DEI.
TULIP Advisory Professionals LLC is comprised of employment lawyers, HR and DEI professionals, corporate trainers, organizational development and change management strategists, and data & analytics consultants and we are uniquely positioned to create a well-balanced DEI strategy that safeguards business outcomes while simultaneously mitigating workplace risks. We believe that if you lead with data, the DEI story will follow. As stated in the leading sentence to this blog post, the data is the data. For more information on how TULIP can help your organization proactively navigate today's DEI environment with a data-driven strategy that works, schedule a consultation with one of our DEI Advisors at https://calendly.com/tulipadvisory/30min. We look forward to showing you how you can create DEI value to enhance the workplace experience at your organization.