Just over one year ago, Harvey Weinstein’s career demise hit the news cycles, and Employers Council started intensively reporting on and tracking sexual harassment trends on social media. For those of us who started investigating claims and providing attendant training, we have seen a dramatic increase in claims and requests for training. But we were all curious about whether it would actually lead to an increase in claims. What would the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) year-end numbers show? In March 2018, both New York and California released their statewide numbers for the last quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. The increases were startling and fit with the anecdotal information that we received as well as our predicted trends.
The EEOC released preliminary numbers related to sexual harassment specifically just a few weeks ago. Based on preliminary data, in 2018, the EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment. This reflects an increase by more than 50 percent from 2017. In addition, charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from 2017. Overall, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for plaintiffs in sexual harassment litigation and administrative enforcement in 2018. By contrast, in 2017, the EEOC recovered $47.5 million, which represents an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2017 to 2018.
While these numbers are preliminary, the EEOC data, and that from states who collect similar information, suggests that the final numbers will likely continue to show substantial increases, which further serves to solidify the trends we are seeing. What this means for employers is that sexual harassment claims are likely going to continue to increase in step with the publicity that goes along with such claims. As a result, employers must continue to be vigilant in responding to employee complaints and conducting thorough investigations.
Employers Council is always here to help with claims of harassment or discrimination. Our Investigations Department can help conduct an investigation or walk you through an internal investigation. We are also ready to help train your internal investigators with an onsite course or through one of our monthly offerings. For more information, please contact Investigations@EmployersCouncil.org.