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EEOC Seeing Big Increase in Sexual Harassment Complaints in Wake of #MeToo

Early in announcing its numbers for 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that new charges of sexual harassment are up 12% to over 7,500. This jump is the first increase in at least eight years. In addition, the EEOC has filed 66 lawsuits so far this year, with 41 of those containing allegations of sexual harassment, which reflects a 50% increase in just one year. It has been reported that the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred in nearly 20% more charges in 2018 than 2017. The new online system used by the EEOC has made filing charges easier and may be a factor in the increase. Visits to the EEOC’s sexual harassment page more than doubled in the last year.
In addition, the EEOC has obtained nearly $70 million through its litigation and enforcement efforts which are up from $47.5 million the year before. According to the head of the EEOC, this information is being released because many people were inquiring with the one year anniversary of the Weinstein reporting coming up. The EEOC does attribute the increase to the #MeToo movement. Charges regarding other forms of discrimination went down over the last year. The EEOC is also creating a new training program for its investigators using a “cognitive interviewing approach” and is working on outreach to encourage reporting of harassment.
As not all employees report their complaints to the EEOC, these numbers do not reflect the year’s total number of sexual harassment complaints. Some employees go through state agencies or through their employer’s internal processes. Some employment attorneys are taking the release of data as a message from the EEOC that they are ramping up their enforcement efforts.