Discrimination claims up 60% in Arizona this year

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX -- Unemployment is up in Arizona and there has been a 60% increase in job discrimination claims in the past year. More than 70,000 people have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since last November.

Experts say that is a huge number but they see similar statistics every time the economy takes a nosedive.

Thousands of people in the Valley are looking for work. Some of them say they feel they were unfairly let go at their last job with layoffs as an easy excuse to discriminate.

Mary O'Neill is a regional attorney with the EEOC in Arizona. She says, “We often see this when economic times are tough. They get rid of people of color, they get rid of people with disabilities, they get rid of people who are pregnant.

We've seen a big jump in national origin claims which probably shouldn't surprise us given what's going on in this state and in this county in particular. We're seeing a big increase in pregnancy discrimination also” said O'Neill.

Some say discrimination also happens while people are looking for work. O’Neill explains, “I saw a store that had a sign and they need people to work so I asked for an application and fill it up right away, and called the managers.”

O'Neill says that of all the discrimination complaints she sees, only half of them have a case. She says, “It may have been unfair, it may have been wrong, they may have been rude to you but it really is not a violation of the law. We see a fair amount of those.”

In many states employers are required to tell employees why they were fired and tell applicants why they were not hired, but Arizona businesses are not required to share that information.  The EEOC says that when you file a formal complaint, employers have to divulge that information.