In what seems to be the silver lining in the dark cloud that was the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment claims and the rise of the #MeToo movement, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that in 2018, sexual harassment claims increased by 13.6% over the previous year, while the total number of complaints of workplace harassment declined by 9.3%. According to Market Watch, the EEOC received 7,609 sexual harassment complaints in 2018.
There is no assumption that the Weinstein case inspired workers to increase their inappropriate workplace behavior; rather, the women who came forward felt empowered to do so, and wanted to empower others who were suffering in silence. Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), said “If those employees are stepping forward because they’re hopeful that they can trust their employers will address the problem, that’s a good sign.”
Victoria Lipnic, the EEOC’s acting chairwoman, remarked that even those numbers are small compared to the actual number of sexual harassments that is going on in workplaces throughout the country. Lipnic estimates that only about 15-20% of workers who experience sexual harassment report it.
Workers are required to file a complaint with the EEOC, which is the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws which prohibit workplace discrimination based on protected categories such as gender, race, religion before he or she may file a workplace discrimination lawsuit.
Per an article in JDSupra, the EEOC filed 66 lawsuits challenging workplace harassment in 2018, 41 of which alleged sexual harassment. That is a 62% increase in claims.
In fiscal year 2018, according to Market Watch, the EEOC recovered about $70 million for sexual harassment claims, which was an increase over the $47.5 million the previous year. Women account for about 85 percent of sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC.
Tips for employers
Employers need to remember that they are required by law to have anti-harassment policies in place and that sexual harassment is a violation of federal and state law. Employers should make it easy for employees who allege that they are being sexually harassed to report the behavior, and complaints should be investigated promptly. All employees should be aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their behavior in the workplace.
A reminder for employees
Sexual harassment is against the law. If you are facing sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, you have the right to file a complaint without concern about retaliation because that is also against the law. If you are facing any type of workplace harassment, or retaliation because you reported harassment, you may want to consider contacting a trusted Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer. We can represent you in filing a complaint with the EEOC, and in filing a workplace discrimination lawsuit if that becomes necessary.