Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission secured the first budget increase nearly a decade, with $16 million allocated by Congress to allow the agency more resources to focus on claims of workplace sexual harassment. California sexual harassment attorneys in Orange County recognize this is at least partially the reason the agency is now reporting an uptick in sexual harassment claims in the last year.
Preliminary statistics as of October 2019 indicate claims of job-related sexual harassment and gender discrimination rose sharply last fiscal year, which ended in September.
There is more to it, though. The #MeToo movement that has swept the country in recent years amid revelations of numerous, high-profile executives, politicians, celebrities and media members were repeatedly accused of patterns of sexual harassment and abuse. The fact that several corporations were found to be complicit in concealing such occurrences revealed the obstacles accusers faced for many years. So it’s not that we’re seeing an increase in people being sexually harassed at work, but rather improved awareness, earlier reporting and more thorough investigations.
By the Numbers: EEOC Reports Uptick in Sexual Harassment Claims
Responsible for enforcement of federal anti-discrimination labor laws, the EEOC reports a nearly 14 percent uptick in sexual harassment claims from September 2017 to September 2018. Similar findings were uncovered in a separate analysis by ethics and compliance software company Navex Global, which reported an 18 percent increase.
The agency helped recover almost $57 million in settlement and verdicts for sexual harassment claims, which is an additional $10 million from the year before.
Orange County sexual harassment attorneys know this is only a fraction of the total recovered in U.S. sexual harassment cases, as many claimants pursue action with the help of employment attorneys in private practice. EEOC attorneys filed a total of 66 work-related sexual harassment lawsuits last year, of which 41 (or 63 percent) were for sexual harassment, representing a 50 percent rise (and not all claims become lawsuits). The agency is still reporting a backlog of cases, though progress has been made to reduce it over the last year.
In total, the agency received more than 7,600 reports of sexual harassment by employees.
What Do These Sexual Harassment Numbers Mean?
The numbers illustrate how the EEOC is applying its additional funding to more aggressively target claims of workplace sexual harassment. It also shows that workers are feeling more empowered to speak up about this problem, both with internal reporting and filing formal claims.
Employers would do well to take note – and action. Failing to do so may well cost them more in the long run. Action on this issue means:
- Reviewing and updating sexual harassment policies, procedures and training.
- Provide victims with a clear means to report claims without fear of retaliation.
- Make clear especially to supervisors that such claims must be met with prompt, objective investigation and appropriate personnel actions.
Individuals who have been targeted by sexual harassment in California should speak to an experienced employment attorney regarding their rights and legal options. Not all occurrences of sexual harassment are a basis on which to sue. The question will be whether an employer took appropriate action when the abuse was reported, discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
More Blog Entries:
California Janitor Sexual Harassment Bill Vetoed, Door Still Open for Further Action, Dec. 13, 2018, Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog