EEOC Releases Early Data on 2018 Sexual Harassment Litigation

Stats show increase over 2017, but lawsuits only one slice of agency’s work

It appears the #MeToo movement isn’t only having an effect at the highest echelons of corporations. According to early data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released Oct. 4, lawsuits for sexual harassment filed by the agency jumped more than 50 percent in fiscal year 2018 over the year before, with 41 filed. But employment law attorneys say it’s unlikely that just an increase in harassment itself is driving the sharp uptick.

“Sometimes people just think that it’s the price of having a job, that you put up with being hassled at work,” said Danielle Urban, a partner at Fisher Phillips in Denver. “And I think some people are realizing the kind of harassment that [they’re ] suffering is actually legally actionable sexual harassment.” She said the #MeToo movement is likely playing a role in the increase, with victims realizing they’ve experienced the type of harassment making headlines and also more inclined to believe they’ll be taken seriously if they come forward.

“I also think that people might be feeling a little more comfortable coming forward, because there are so many people coming forward, and thinking that there might be a little more safety,” Urban said. According to 2017 data from the EEOC, 48.8 percent of charges brought by the agency that year were for retaliation against an employee making harassment allegations.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 15, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.