• Why Your Workplace Needs Effective Sexual Harassment Training
  • December 20, 2018 | Author: Marc R. Engel
  • Law Firm: Lerch, Early & Brewer, Chartered - Bethesda Office
  • If employers needed more reasons – and they do not – to treat sexual harassment as an issue that warrants serious attention, the EEOC’s fall press release containing preliminary fiscal year 2018 sexual harassment data provided it.

    The release contains a sobering set of statistics that illustrate not only the increase in the number of harassment claims being filed, but also the aggressive and vigorous efforts taken by the EEOC in response to these claims. Consider the following:

    • Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by 13.6 percent from fiscal year 2017.
    • For charges alleging harassment, reasonable cause findings increased by 23.6 percent to nearly 1,200 in FY 2018.
    • The EEOC filed 66 lawsuits challenging workplace harassment, 41 of which alleged sexual harassment. This is more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017. EEOC’s lawsuits sought to protect a wide-range of employees across the entire country, including servers, nurses, administrative assistants, customer service staff, truck drivers, welders, and other workers at cleaners and country clubs, sports bars and airlines, in factories, health care, and grocery stores. In both June and August, the EEOC coordinated the filing of federal court cases around the country.
    • The EEOC successfully conciliated 498 charges alleging harassment, a 43 percent increase from FY 2017.
    • The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

    Stark as they are, these stats should not come as a great surprise to employers. As the EEOC explained in its announcement, “[i]n the past 12 months, the country heard story after story of sexual harassment that just one year before might never have been told.” The rising tide of harassment claims, and the EEOC’s enforcement efforts (as well as those of local and state governments) show no signs of abating any time soon.

    Employers face a clear choice – namely, do nothing and hope that they do not become part of next year’s statistics or commit to taking proactive and effective measures such as (i) conducting regular, comprehensive and thorough harassment training; (ii) updating harassment and other policies related to workplace conduct; and (iii) establishing an effective and accessible harassment complaint system.

    Viewed differently, the EEOC’s press release, for all its doom and gloom, is actually a challenge to employers to “show up different” in the eyes of employees, potential applicants, customers and the public by demonstrating an authentic commitment to this pressing issue.