By Meghan Droste October 17, 2018
This year, I have logged thousands of miles traveling to various parts of the US and Japan to teach courses on several different topics. One area that I have covered in nearly every course is sexual harassment — what it is, when an employer is liable for it, and what agencies can do to address and prevent it. I am frequently asked if there has been a change in the number of reports of harassment or the number of cases alleging sexual harassment since the rise the #MeToo movement last October. Until now, I have had to answer the question with anecdotal evidence from my practice and stories of others in the field. It has generally felt that more people are willing and able to come forward now to report what has happened to them and to press employers to hold harassers accountable.
The EEOC recently released numbers that back up the general feeling that there are more reports of sexual harassment. As the Commission notes, in the past year “the country heard story after story of sexual harassment that just one year before might never have been told.” In What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment, the Commission provides statistics from Fiscal Year 2018 that demonstrate just how much the legal landscape has changed.
Although the report does not include numbers from the federal sector, we can see a noticeable change in the numbers of charges and lawsuits filed. The Commission observed a 12 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed in the private sector. There was also a 50 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment lawsuits the EEOC filed. Sexual harassment cases made up more than 60 percent of the cases the Commission filed in FY18. The Commission also recovered almost $70 million for victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement.
The public’s interest in information regarding sexual harassment also increased during the past fiscal year. The Commission reported that the hits on the sexual harassment page of its website more than doubled. Requests for training by the EEOC also increased across the country [Editor’s Note: as has also happened at FELTG.]
It is still too early to tell what the lasting impact of the #MeToo movement will be. It is encouraging, however, to see that in just the last 12 months, it has made a difference. You can read more about the FY18 numbers on the EEOC website. The EEOC has also issued press releases about several of the harassment suits it has filed this year, which you can read here and here. Droste@FELTG.com