2018 Brought Increased Sexual Harassment Charges

On April 10, 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its full fiscal year enforcement statistics on discrimination and harassment charges brought in 2018. Although overall charges of harassment and discrimination in the workplace went down from 2017, sexual harassment charges and related legal action increased.

Retaliation was the most frequent charge in 2018 (39,469 charges, or 51.6 percent). Retaliation was followed by sex (24,655 charges, or 32.3 percent), disability (24,605 charges, or 32.2 percent) and race (24,600 charges, or 32.2 percent).

The EEOC alone in 2018 (not including affiliated state and local agencies) had a 13.6 percent increase from 2017 in the number of sexual harassment charges brought (7,609). The EEOC also obtained $56.6 million in monetary benefits for alleged victims of sexual harassment. If affiliated state and local agencies are included with the EEOC statistics, the total number of charges alleging sexual harassment was 11,342 in 2018.

The highest numbers of sexual harassment charges in 2018 came from Texas (989), New York (920), and Florida (914) as compared to Colorado (254), Arizona (295), and Utah (102).

EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic stated, “[W]e 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.” Sexual harassment in the workplace had been a focus of the EEOC for several years, predating the #MeToo movement.

In line with this focus, the EEOC brought suit this month against a Chili’s restaurant in Canon City, Colorado, for alleged sexual discrimination against female employees, including pervasive sexual comments and innuendo by the restaurant’s managing partner and assistant manager and retaliation including a reduction in scheduled hours for some female employees who complained.

It appears that regulatory focus on sexual harassment is likely to continue.