EEOC Claims Spike One Year After #MeToo Movement Takes Off

With the influence of the #MeToo movement, the EEOC saw a 12 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed this year.

Preliminary data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates a heightened awareness in the workplace about sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement took off last year. And as a leader in preventing workplace harassment, the EEOC continues to enforce the laws and take the claims it receives seriously.

According to a recent EEOC press release, the EEOC’s preliminary sexual harassment data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, which ran from October 2017 (the same month that the #MeToo hashtag went viral) through September 30 shows:

  • The agency has seen more than a 50 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment lawsuits from FY 2017.
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, compared to the $47.5 million in FY 2017.
  • The number of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC has increased by more than 12 percent from FY 2017.

The seemingly modest 12 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed this year is actually quite significant, considering that the number of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC has been on a steady decline from 2010 through 2017.

In relation to the EEOC’s preliminary data, the agency also issued a report highlighting various efforts it’s taken over the last year to combat all forms of workplace harassment, including:

  • Conducting more than 1,000 outreach events on harassment for more than 115,000 individuals and employers;
  • Launching a “Respectful Workplaces” training seminar to teach skills that promote and contribute to respect in the workplace; and
  • Reconvening the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace for a public meeting to examine difficult legal issues and to share innovative strategies to prevent harassment.

These are just a few examples of the steps the EEOC has taken to meet the heightened demand for information and advice around the issue of sexual harassment.

Takeaways for Employers:

  • Be sure that your workplace harassment policies and procedures are up-to-date and effectively communicated to your workforce.
  • Train your managers and staff on what constitutes harassment and what to do if it occurs. (Read more about California’s new sexual harassment training requirements for 2019 on HRWatchdog.)
  • In addition to policies and training, take steps to foster a work culture that discourages inappropriate and disrespectful behavior in the workplace and encourages employees to report misconduct.
  • Take all harassment claims seriously and resolve them as quickly as possible.

Bianca Saad, Employment Law Subject Matter Expert

CalChamber members can read more about Sexual Harassment in the Harassment section of the HR Library. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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