It was a little more than a year ago that the #MeToo movement began, and many of us in the labor and employment community wondered if it would lead to an increase in sexual harassment lawsuits. Data recently released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests that it has.
The EEOC data shows that there was a 12% increase in charges alleging sexual harassment in FY 2018 versus FY 2017. There were nearly 1,200 findings that there was a reasonable likelihood of sexual harassment in the workplace in 2018, compared with 970 in 2017. The data also shows that the agency recovered $70 million in sexual harassment settlements and lawsuits in FY 2018 as opposed to $47.5 million in FY 2017. The agency also filed 50% more sexual harassment lawsuits in 2018 as opposed to 2017.
It is hard to know whether this is just a temporary spike in sexual harassment litigation or whether this is the new reality. Either way, employers need comprehensive sexual harassment policies in place, and should conduct sexual harassment training at least once a year. Employers need to take allegations of sexual harassment seriously, and conduct investigations immediately upon receiving word of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The EEOC has some great resources that employers should check out, including this guide for employees who believe they have been harassed at work, along with this guide for practices that can be implemented to prevent harassment. Ancel Glink conducts sexual harassment training and puts together sexual harassment policies as well. Feel free to contact us if you would like us to provide this training or put together a policy for you.