Discrimination claims are up — way up. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) reported the biggest increase in the number of claims filed during its last fiscal year since the early 1990’s. The 82,792 cases included double digit percentage increases in claims of discrimination based on race, retaliation, age, disability, national origin, and religion. The number of claims continues to spike in the new fiscal year. During February 2008 more than 40,000 EEOC claims were initiated, a 31% increase over the approximately 30,000 in February of 2007.Tough economic times can lead to a jump in discrimination complaints. If it’s hard to get a job, or to keep a job, or if employees are just plain worried, they are more likely to turn to a government agency. For such cases, the EEOC has made the complaint process more user friendly. A new EEOC call center provides information, answers questions, and refers callers to the appropriate office. The complaint process can be started with a very easy-to-use online assessment tool that includes a fillable form and directions for claim filing steps. EEOC Chair Naomi Earp sees a role for employers. “Corporate America needs to do a better job of proactively preventing discrimination and addressing complaints promptly and effectively.” Now, creating a policy is not enough if employees don’t know it exists or how to respond to complaints of discrimination. If you have never held training to prevent and investigate discrimination, schedule a class. If you have already trained employees, train them again.