The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released preliminary sexual harassment data for FY2018, which ended September 30. The report illustrates that the EEOC has been, in the words of the EEOC, “vigorously enforcing the law” in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The data indicates an increase in sexual harassment charges and EEOC lawsuits, and a dramatic increase in the amount paid to settle sexual harassment charges.
Highlights from the report include:
- The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits – 41 included allegations of sexual harassment.
- Sexual harassment charges increased 12% – the first increase in at least 8 years.
- Reasonable cause findings in harassment cases increased 23%.
- The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through “litigation and administrative enforcement” in FY2018, up from $47.5 million in FY2017.
Employers should expect the EEOC to continue aggressively investigating harassment claims. Employers should also expect increased enforcement activity from state and local agencies, in addition to a rise in private lawsuits alleging claims of harassment. For these reasons, employers should be proactive and vigilant.
In 2016, the EEOC’s “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace” published a
offering employers suggestions to prevent harassment in the workplace. Some key recommendations include:
Workplace Leadership and Accountability:
- Assess your workplace for risk factors associated with harassment and explore ideas for minimizing those risks.
- Conduct “climate surveys” to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem within your organization.
- Ensure that where harassment is found to have occurred, discipline is prompt and proportionate to the severity of the infraction, consistent, and does not give (or create the appearance of) undue favor to any particular employee.
Harassment Prevention Policies and Procedures:
- Adopt and maintain a comprehensive anti-harassment policy.
- Communicate your harassment reporting protocol frequently and in a variety of forms and methods.
- Be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur.
- Offer compliance trainings on a regular basis.
- Invest in training for middle-management and first-line supervisors on how to respond effectively to harassment allegations.
- Consider including workplace civility training and bystander intervention training as part of a holistic harassment prevention program.