EEOC primed for more aggressive enforcement as sexual harassment charges increase

published in McAfee & Taft EmployerLINC Alert | April 11, 2019

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday announced its final enforcement data for fiscal year 2018, which ended September 30, 2018. As expected, the statistics show a significant increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed following the #MeToo Movement. There were 7,609 sexual harassment charges filed in 2018, a 13.6% increase from fiscal year 2017. After retaliation, sex discrimination was the most frequently filed charge with the agency. In addition, the EEOC announced it had obtained $56.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment, an increase of more than $10 million since fiscal year 2017.

The EEOC also reduced its backlog of charges, likely due to increases in federal funding and the increased use of digital services. Along these lines, the EEOC also recently announced that it had hired its first chief data officer who will look at trends and patterns to assist the agency in designing targeted outreach programs to make sure workers in specific industries are aware of their rights — a move the agency predicts could lead to more charges being filed.

These statistics are a strong reminder to employers that over a year later, the effects of the #MeToo Movement are still being felt, and the EEOC is taking full advantage. Employers that have not taken steps to implement effective anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, complaint mechanisms, and employee training should do so now. With increased resources, a decreased backlog, and the attention of the public, employers should expect more aggressive enforcement from the EEOC, especially on sexual harassment charges.

For more information about workforce training options and best practices, contact your McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney.