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Sexual harassment claims jump

Retaliation still tops the charts

Posted April 15, 2019

According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), retaliation continued to be the most frequently filed charge filed with the agency, followed by sex, disability and race. The agency also received 7,609 sexual harassment charges — a 13.6 percent increase from FY 2017 — and obtained $56.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment.

EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic indicated that the EEOC “cannot look back on last year without noting the significant impact of the #MeToo movement in the number of sexual harassment and retaliation charges filed with the agency.”

Specifically, the charge numbers show the following breakdowns by bases alleged, in descending order:

  • Retaliation: 39,469 (51.6 percent of all charges filed)
  • 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 Act: 1,066 (1.4 percent)
  • Genetic Information: 220 (.3 percent)

EEOC legal staff filed 199 merits lawsuits alleging discrimination in fiscal year 2018, which ended September 30, 2018. The lawsuits filed by the EEOC included 117 individual suits and 45 suits involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies and 37 systemic discrimination cases. At the end of the fiscal year, the EEOC had 302 cases on its active docket. The EEOC won in 95.7 percent of all district court resolutions.

Given these statistics, the EEOC has evidence supporting stronger enforcement of sexual harassment provisions. Employers who have not addressed this issue would benefit from doing so, as prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, and training can go a long way to help avoid claims. Claims can include back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Sexual Harassment TrainingJ. J. Keller's Sexual Harassment Prevention Training helps all employees—including bystanders—address unwanted and unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace and learn how to respond if an incident does occur.


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