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EEOC Report: Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaints are Up

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R. Douglas Taylor, Jr.
May 10, 2019

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its discrimination enforcement and litigation statistics for its fiscal year ending September 20, 2018. The report provides employers with a detailed breakdown of the 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination the EEOC received in FY 2018. The numbers are consistent with anecdotal reports in the mainstream media of a sharp increase in sexual harassment activity since the New York Times and The New Yorker first published allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein in October 2017.

So, What are Your Employees Complaining About?

The EEOC’s statistics show that retaliation, typically a negative job action taken after an employee has complained about discrimination, continues to be the most frequently filed EEOC charge, followed by sex, disability, race, and age discrimination. EEOC charge breakdowns, in descending order, are as follows:

Retaliation:                          39,469 (51.6 percent of all charges filed)[1]

Sex:                                     24,655 (32.3 percent)

Disability:                            24,605 (32.2 percent)

Race:                                   24,600 (32.2 percent)

Age:                                    16,911 (22.1 percent)

National Origin:                    7,106 (9.3 percent)

Color:                                    3,166 (4.1 percent)

Religion:                                2,859 (3.7 percent)

Equal Pay:                             1,066 (1.4 percent)

Genetics:                                  220 (0.3 percent)

What was the EEOC Up to in 2018?

Overall, EEOC complaints alleging workplace sexual harassment increased by nearly 14 percent during 2018; the EEOC filed 41 lawsuits challenging such workplace harassment, more than doubling the number of cases filed the previous year; “reasonable cause findings” went up by nearly 24 percent in cases alleging sexual harassment; and the EEOC’s successful “conciliation” of charges involving sexual harassment jumped by 43 percent. The EEOC recovered close to $70 million for sexual harassment complainants through administrative enforcement and litigation, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

How Can You Reduce Your Risks?

With the uptick in workplace sexual harassment claims in 2018, it has become even more prudent for Virginia employers to scrutinize the effectiveness of their employee sexual harassment policies and practices and to consider whether more comprehensive sexual harassment training may be needed for management and staff.  

Bean, Kinney & Korman’s employment law practice group can help you assess your particular workforce situation and suggest options to help mitigate your risks.

[1] The EEOC’s percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.