It has been a year and a half since the #MeToo movement roared to life with an exposé of the sexual harassment and assaults by film executive Harvey Weinstein. Since October of 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported a significant increase in sexual-harassment complaints even as reports of all types of workplace harassment declined.
The EEOC received 7,609 complaints of sexual harassment in the fiscal year, up 13.6 percent over the previous year. At the same time, there were 76,418 reports filed overall of workplace harassment of all kinds - a 9.3 percent decrease over the previous fiscal year.
Along with the increase in EEOC complaints of sexual harassment, there have also been increases in internal complaints to employers and to industry groups, said senior EEOC counsel Cathy Ventrell-Monsees.
"If those employees are stepping forward because they're hopeful that they can trust their employers will address the problem," she said. "That's a good sign."
That optimism is tempered by the reality that the number of sexual harassment complaints lodged with the EEOC is relatively small compared to the actual number of cases in companies across the country. Victoria Lipnic, the EEOC's acting chair, said it's estimated that only 15 percent to 20 percent of workers who are subjected to sexual harassment ever report it.
There are several theories about why sexual harassment reports to the EEOC have surged. Part of it is due to #MeToo, of course, and part of it is due to training some employees have received in how to recognize and prevent sexual harassment in the wake of #MeToo, making people more aware of which behaviors constitute harassment.
Some people also believe that the proliferation of cell phones, making it easier to digitally store and record photos, videos, texts and emails, has also contributed to the rise in complaints.
If you have suffered sexual harassment in your Milwaukee workplace, contact the employment law offices of Alan C. Olson and Associates to learn more about compensation, litigation and other legal options.