It may be hard to believe, but October 5, 2018, marked the one-year anniversary of the New York Times exposé of Harvey Weinstein, which led to a nationwide conversation about sexual assault and sexual harassment that continues to this day. Although it is impossible to quantify the impact of this movement on our society, preliminary data released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) last week gives us some idea.
As many employers know, the EEOC is charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws as they pertain to the workplace. Its duties include investigating charges of workplace discrimination and/or harassment filed by current or former employees. The EEOC announced that during fiscal year 2018, which ran from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018, charges filed alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent over fiscal year 2017. The EEOC also announced that it filed over 50 percent more sexual harassment lawsuits on behalf of employees in fiscal year 2018 than fiscal year 2017, and as a result, collected nearly $70 million from employers through litigation and administrative enforcement.
That these figures are staggering should not come as a surprise. They emphasize the reality that employers must take all appropriate measures to eliminate unlawful workplace discrimination and harassment in all its forms. Policies and handbooks must be reviewed and revised, employees must be trained, and supervisors must act. The EEOC is watching and your employees are, too. For questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.