Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released preliminary data regarding sexual harassment for its 2018 fiscal year. Coincidentally, the fiscal year began in October of 2017, the same month that the Harvey Weinstein scandal hit the newsstands and the #MeToo Movement (which was originally founded in 2006) first took social media by storm.
According to the EEOC, it filed 66 harassment lawsuits, 41 of which involved allegations of sexual harassment. This represented a 50 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment lawsuits filed by the agency in fiscal year 2017. The EEOC also reported a more than 12 percent increase in the filing of charges alleging sexual harassment in the past year, representing the first time that such charges have increased from one year to the next in this decade. Finally, the agency reportedly recovered nearly $70 million for sexual harassment claimants through both litigation and administrative enforcement, a $22.5 million increase over the prior fiscal year.
These statistics are clear evidence that momentum surrounding the #MeToo Movement is having a tangible impact on the workplace. Moreover, in the wake of the media frenzy surrounding the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States, it is likely that employers will continue to see an increase in complaints of sexual harassment. It is therefore recommended that employers take the steps outlined in our January 8, 2018 post (i.e. implementing/reviewing policies, effectively communicating said policies, conducting training, and responding appropriately to complaints) to ensure that they are effectively preventing and otherwise addressing harassment in the workplace.
For assistance with any of the foregoing, please feel free to contact Meg Matejkovic, Amanda Smith or any other K|W|W attorney.