Impact of #Metoo? The Number of Sexual Harassment Charges Filed With the EEOC in FY 2018 Has Increased

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

In case you were wondering whether the #Metoo movement has resulted in an increase in the number of sexual harassment allegations, the EEOC’s most recent report suggests that it has. Yesterday, the EEOC announced preliminary FY 2018 sexual harassment data. According to the preliminary data, in 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.

The EEOC also states that over 9,000 employees and supervisors in the private, public and federal sector work forces participated in its Respectful Workplaces trainings this past fiscal year. An additional 13,000 employees participated in EEOC’s anti-harassment compliance trainings.

The takeaway: The issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault continue to be discussed quite vigorously in the media. This public discussion increases the likelihood that some employees may come forward and complain about actions or comments that they previously dismissed either because they did not recognize them as harassment or they thought that nothing would happen if they complained about them. Regardless of how long ago the conduct complained about may have occurred, a company must investigate every complaint of harassment in the workplace. The amount of time that has passed between the alleged conduct and the complaint may be a factor in the company’s determination regarding the merits of the complaint, but it should not be a reason to ignore a complaint.

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

©2018 Wimberly Lawson

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