News & Events

#MeToo: Harassment Claims, Enforcement on the Rise, EEOC Reports

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON HRLAWS.COM’S TENNESSEE EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER BY BUTLER SNOW’S Kara E. Shea.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces antidiscrimination laws, is getting serious about the #MeToo movement. Let’s take a look at a recent report from the agency.

Claims, cause findings are increasing

The recent report shows that EEOC litigators filed 66 lawsuits alleging workplace harassment in fiscal year (FY) 2018, which is more than a 50 percent increase over the previous year. The number of sexual harassment charges filed with the agency also increased by more than 12 percent during the same period.

The EEOC found “cause” to believe illegal harassment had actually occurred in nearly 1,200 of the charges filed, which is an increase of almost 25 percent over the previous year. The agency recovered around $70 million for harassment victims in FY 2018, compared to $47.5 million in the previous year.

It’s clear from the statistics that more employees are reporting harassment, and the EEOC is taking them very seriously. The report also indicates that the agency plans to continue focusing on the issue, including by providing specialized training for the investigators who are looking into the claims.

Bottom line

Employers must take the #MeToo movement as seriously as the EEOC apparently does. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to review your antiharassment and antidiscrimination policies and train your supervisors and employees on diversity and inclusion, and how to report and respond to harassment complaints. Employers with open doors and open eyes and ears—and a prompt response to harassment complaints—are far less likely to hear from the EEOC on this issue.