EEOC Releases Preliminary Report Showing Increase in Sexual Harassment Claims in 2018

On October 4, 2018 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released the preliminary report of the sexual harassment data they collected for fiscal year 2018 (ending September 30, 2018).  This report shows that the #MeToo movement has had a widespread impact on reporting of sexual harassment and related workplace abuses.

The EEOC is the federal agency of the United States charged with administering and enforcing civil right laws against workplace discrimination including claims of sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination and retaliation.  Individuals who have suffered wrongful termination or discrimination at the workplace can file a charge with the EEOC by themselves or through the assistance of a private employment lawyer.  The EEOC was formed in 1965 and maintains its headquarters in Washington, DC with offices throughout the United States, including New Jersey.

Over the course of the past year, there has been a seismic shift in the way that sexual harassment has been viewed and addressed across all aspects of our society in large part due to the #MeToo movement.  Nowhere has this change been seen more drastically than in the incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace.  In the past year there has been a reckoning across the United States, with a clear message being sent to harassers that discriminatory and harassing behavior and conduct will no longer be tolerated at the workplace, our schools or in any other circumstances.

The #MeToo movement was kicked off just over a year ago, on October 5, 2017, when the New York Times published the blockbuster exposé detailing numerous accusations of sexual harassment against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.  Further reporting followed and, as more and more women came forward with accusations of harassment and abuse, women and men across the entertainment industry were inspired to come forward with their own stories of abuse and harassment.  These accounts all detailed a troubling dynamic: people in positions of power taking advantage of their position and harassing and abusing people who could be intimidated into remaining silent.  It appears based upon the EEOC’s statistics, the #MeToo movement has encouraged people to break their silence and make complaints to their employers.  This is a welcoming statistic in light of the findings of the 2016 Task Force of Workplace Harassment Report which found that approximately ¾ of women who are sexually harassed do not complain about incidents of sexual harassment.  In fact, alerting the employer is one of the least likely ways that a victim of sexual harassment will respond sexual harassment.  Hopefully, more and more, people are willing to report sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments, and retaliation for being a whistleblower and employers will more and more respond quickly, thoroughly and completely in stopping sexual harassment at the workplace.

Specifically, the EEOC reports that it filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment in fiscal year 2018. This represented a greater than 50% increase in lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, over fiscal year 2017.  In addition, the total number of charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by greater than 12% compared to fiscal year 2017.  Finally, the EEOC was able to recover nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in fiscal year 2018. This represented nearly a 50% increase over the total amount recovered in fiscal year 2017, when the EEOC collected $47.5 million.

The employment lawyers of Smith Eibeler will continue to represent victims of workplace discrimination including in claims of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation. If you have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace, please call our New Jersey sexual harassment employment lawyers who can discuss your options and help guide you through the process every step of the way.