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By: Barry Brownstein
Since October 2017, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and the #MeToo movement took off, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed 50 percent more sexual harassment lawsuits than it did the previous year and has seen a spike in the number of sexual harassment claims it has received. The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits in fiscal 2018 of which 41 contained allegations of sexual harassment. In addition, the EEOC recovered about $70 million for sexual harassment victims in fiscal 2018, compared with approximately $47 million it recovered in fiscal 2017.
According to the agency’s data, besides its own stepped up enforcement efforts, workers have also increasingly turned to the EEOC over the past year to report allegations of sexual harassment. The number of charges filed by individuals alleging they were victims of workplace sexual harassment increased by 12 percent in fiscal 2018 from the prior year. The EEOC fielded 6,696 sexual harassment charges in fiscal 2017. A 12 percent increase of that figure indicates the agency fielded about 7,500 sexual harassment charges in the most recent fiscal year. That increase is the first time this decade the number of sexual harassment charges received by the EEOC has gone up from one fiscal year to the next.
Acting EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic has ardently communicated the message that the EEOC has continued to lead the way to achieve the goal of reducing the level of harassment and promoting harassment-free workplaces. Consistent with that theme, the EEOC has also issued a report highlighting the various measures it took over the past 12 months to fight all forms of workplace harassment. Such efforts include more than 1,000 outreach events, the development of “respectful workplaces” training seminars, and the creation of an internal “harassment prevention action team” to coordinate the agency’s anti-harassment efforts.
With sexual harassment claims soaring, employers should review their current training program, update it so it is consistent with the EEOC’s “respectful workplaces” training, and ensure all employees are provided with such training.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Barry Brownstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.