Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EEOC sees no #MeToo uptick in harassment filings, but…

Earlier this month, the EEOC reconvened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. One fact that came out of the agency’s meeting is that, according to Acting EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic, the EEOC has yet to see an increase in sexual harassment charges in response to the #MeToo movement.
I do want to mention one other point that we have been frequently asked here at the EEOC - and that is - “have you seen an uptick in charges filed alleging harassment?” - sometimes, people ask, specifically about sexual harassment charges being filed with the agency?

I want to point out one thing: the fiscal year for the EEOC runs from the beginning of October to the end of September. That happens to conveniently coincide with when this issue took off in the press and the public. So, we are cautious about talking about our statistics until we are able to have a full assessment at the end of our fiscal year. And of course, there’s typically some delay in charge filings, since individuals generally have up to 300 days to file a charge. So while our workload has increased on this issue for all of our offices, including the training I mentioned, so far, we have not seen a big increase in charges filed. 

If, however, you instead judge the success of the #MeToo movement on the EEOC’s recent litigation efforts, it’s doing just fine. Following on the heels of the Task Force’s public meeting, the EEOC filed seven different high-profile harassment cases.

The allegations in these cases include:

  • women being called “prostitutes” and “sluts”
  • A male manager forcing himself upon a female subordinate
  • An employer allowing a known male sexual harasser to train a female hiree alone
  • A supervisor “accidentally” grazing employees’ breasts
  • A company owner calling an employee his “little young ass” and telling her how sexy she looks

Moreover, while the EEOC has not seen a #MeToo uptick, it reports that nearly one-third of all charges filed with the EEOC include allegations of harassment, and that more than more than 80 percent of individuals who experience harassment never file a formal complaint. 

In the words of EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, “Our challenge is to use this #MeToo moment well. We have a road map given the work we have done at the EEOC. We have the attention and commitment of the range of different actors in society that we need. Together, we can channel that energy to create significant and sustainable change.”