The Data Is In: Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Are Up

November 1, 2018 |

Given the intense media focus on the #MeToo movement, it should probably come as no surprise that sexual harassment lawsuits are on the rise.  The EEOC recently released the following preliminary date for FY 2018:

  • The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment. That reflects more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over fiscal year 2017.
  • In addition, charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from fiscal year 2017.
  • Overall, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

According to a new survey by the University of Chicago, 65% of Americans now believe sexual assault is a widespread problem.  The study also highlights that viewpoints about sexual assault vary according to age and gender.  49% of people ages 18 to 29 now think sexual assault is more common than they thought a month ago, compared with 39% of respondents overall. Additionally, male respondents were more than twice as likely as female respondents to view sexual assault crimes as largely isolated examples of individual misconduct.

Take this data, and consider for a moment the implication for an employer with an older male supervisor fielding comments from a young female subordinate about a hostile work environment.  If the default for this supervisor is to consider sexual assault or harassment to be uncommon, isolated examples of individual misconduct, without training, he may be more likely to ignore or dismiss comments about inappropriate behavior that the subordinate considers to be unlawful.

Sexual harassment continues to be in the spotlight, and the EEOC is doing its part to make sure that won’t change any time soon. Educating employees on important topics like respect and civility as well as more standard harassment training is an important steps in reducing potential liability.

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