Despite #MeToo, workplace sexual harassment persists
- Of the estimated 5 million people who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, 99.8% never file a complaint, according to a report by researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst's Center for Employment Equity. And of the claims filed, 68% come with retaliation complaints, with black women reporting the highest rates of this. Black women, who comprise only 7% of the labor force, file 27% of sexual harassment claims. The report also found that people who file complaints don't want money; they just want to get back to work and see that the consequences for the perpetrator make the workplace better for all employees.
- The study found that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) tends to deem sexual harassment charges as more likely to produce a finding of cause, compared to other discrimination claims, but the study concluded that few benefit from an EEOC case. Less than a third of employees (27%) receive any benefit after filing a sexual harassment charge with the EEOC. Only 23% get monetary compensation and less than 1% of all awards exceed $100,000. Merely 12% of charges result in an agreement to change practices within a workplace.
- The study broke down total sexual harassment charge rates according to industry. Public administration resulted in the fewest charges, while the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction industries had almost 30 charges among 100,000 women. The report revealed that sexual harassment claims are higher in male-dominated industries. Researchers in the study concluded that: sexual harassment "remains a persistent and serious threat to women and men in American workplaces."
The results of this study may alarm employers and employees alike; they suggest sexual harassment is as rampant a problem as ever, and employers are retaliating against alleged victims in greater numbers than anticipated, rather than following up with investigations to eliminate the behavior. The monumental changes to the workplace that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were expected to ignite may not have generated much more than discussion. And the EEOC's resolution process could be leaving scores of victims without recourse. The results also suggest that the number of people who gain the courage to come forth from social movements are still being largely ignored.
The American Physiological Association's 2018 Work and Well-being Survey, released in May, showed that organizations had done little to change their policies on or handling of sexual misconduct since the movements drew attention on the subject. State and municipalities, however, were quicker to change their sexual harassment policies and upgrade their training programs. In an article for HR Dive, Atty. David W. Garland, a member of the firm and chair of Epstein Becker Green's National Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Steering Committee, cautioned employers that state and city changes could impact the way they handle sexual harassment and therefore they should move ahead with their own policy and training changes.
- Center for Employment Equity Employer's Responses to Sexual Harassment