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2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. 

Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other.  In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin.  For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years. 

Interestingly, the total Monetary Benefits recovered through voluntary resolution of claims was over $350 million for the complainants of workplace discrimination.  This was the 7th highest total recovery on record over the previous 25 years.  This number was somewhat surprising because the agency only resolved about 62,000 total cases in 2021.  Again, for reference, in 2013, the agency collected record Monetary Benefits of $372 million, but that was for the resolution of over 97,000 claims.

What does this mean for employers?  It’s fairly simple.  While the total number of claims has been decreasing, the total cost of claims is steeply rising. 

What is the cause of the increase of cost of claims?  Again, it seems fairly simple.  Retaliation remains the most common type of charge filed with the EEOC.  Retaliation claims account for over 56% of the total charges filed, and are ordinarily the most expensive claims for employers. 

Why are retaliation charges problematic?  As we have cautioned employers, retaliation claims are problematic because they include claims of deliberate, targeted unlawful conduct in response to the claimant’s participation in a protected activity.  It is difficult to explain away or prove a legitimate business justification for targeted mistreatment of an employee who raised an internal complaint, gave a witness statement, or did something else to invoke the retaliation protection. 

What can employers do to minimize the risk?  To minimize the risk of retaliation claims employers can implement several baseline steps:

  • Make sure you have an effective avenue for employees to report employment complaints, including any threats of retaliation. We recommend a third-party anonymous hotline.
  • Once a complaint is received, begin the investigation immediately, fairly, and professionally.
  • As part of the investigation, specifically remind everyone involved that retaliation is strictly prohibited!
  • As part of your overall foundation, make sure all employees are trained and reminded that retaliation will not be tolerated and is grounds for immediate termination. This is accomplished through updated policies that are signed by employees and regular training.
  • Train employees on civility and respect in the workplace. These training events by third-party professionals have shown added benefits at minimizing not only the underlying bad acts, but also at preventing subsequent retaliation. 

With a proper foundation of workplace preventative measures, employers can minimize their risk of EEOC charges and high-leverage claims.  For further information, please reach out to Jeffrey C. Miller, jcmiller@bmdllc.com, or any member of the BMD L+E team.

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.

Property Owner Protection from Tax Valuation Challenges

New legislation provides significant new protections for commercial property owners against challenges to valuation primarily by local school boards and prohibiting side agreements to avoid tax valuation changes. The Ohio Legislature has approved House Bill 126 which will go into effect July 2022 but will effectively apply to the 2023 tax valuation year.

No Surprises Act Update: The IDR Portal is Open

The No Surprises Act (“NSA”) became effective January 1, 2022, and has been the subject of lawsuits and criticisms since its inception. The goals of the No Surprises Act are to shield patients from surprise medical bills, provide to uninsured and self-pay patients good faith estimates of charges, and create a process to resolve payment disputes over surprise bills, which arise most typically in emergency care settings. We have written about Part I and Part II of the NSA previously. This update concerns the Independent Dispute Resolution (“IDR”) procedure created by Part II but applicable to claims covered by Part I. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) finally opened the Portal for providers to submit disputes to the IDR process following some updated guidance regarding the arbitration process itself.