Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a report detailing its work over the past year. In what is hopefully a positive turn of events, the number of employment discrimination claims filed with the EEOC dropped during the 2013 fiscal year from the number of claims filed during the 2012 fiscal year. In all, roughly 6,000 fewer claims were filed last year than were the previous year.

It is possible that fewer claims were filed in 2013 because workers are feeling more reserved about speaking up when abuses occur. However, it is also quite possible that the record-breaking settlement and mediation payouts of 2012 and 2013 have inspired employers to change their ways slowly but surely.

In 2012, workers and former workers in the private sector received a record $365 million in settlement and mediation relief directly related to their employment discrimination claims. In 2013, that figure climbed to $372 million in relief for affected workers. Though this number does not seem substantial when applied nationally, it represents solid gains for workers who bravely attempt to hold their employers accountable for unacceptable treatment.

It is true that workers have filed more than 93,000 job bias claims annually for the past four years. This statistic strongly suggests that many workers are still experiencing illegal treatment in the workplace. However, the drop in claims filed last year combined with record-breaking settlement and mediation relief suggests that there are reasons to be hopeful that the experience of American workers will be fairer and less tainted by bias in the future than it has been in the past.

Source: Business Management Daily, “EEOC: Fewer bias claims in 2013, bigger bucks,” Jan. 8, 2014