EEOC Reports – Sexual Harassment still a Big Problem at U.S. Employers

A 14 month EEOC workplace harassment taskforce study provided a quite troubling report. According to the workplace harassment statistics cited in the report, nearly a third of approximately 90,000 charges the EEOC receives each year include an allegation of workplace harassment.  You may recall, In recent news, former Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, filed a lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, alleging sexual harassment. This has certainly put a spotlight on an issue that experts say still remains an all-too frequent reality in the workplace.

EEOC’s Commissioner, Victoria A. Lipnic, said that 90 percent of people who are harassed at work never file a legal complaint. The EEOC’s reporting on sexual harassment has declined in recent years as companies deal with the matter internally, avoiding reporting to the EEOC.  Other surveys have shown that roughly one in four women say they have been harassed on the job – this number could be higher as victims are too frightened to speak up. Maya Raghu, Director of Workplace Equality at the National Women’s Law Center, says, “Yes , we have more women in our society, in our culture, in high-profile and leadership roles, but a big reason why most people experiencing sexual harassment don’t’ come forward is there’s still a lot of fear. As long as there is that threat of losing your job, of how you appear to your friends, your peers, that’s going to continue to keep this issue from being resolved.”

Another reason sexual harassment is so pervasive is different perceptions of what it is. Brascugli De Lima, a human resources consultant, says that those who are accused of harassment, “a lot of this is really a lack of understanding of how to behave in the workplace.”

So how do companies prevent harassment? It’s all about culture and persistence. It is suggested that companies shift attention to creating workplace environments in which harassment is neither acceptable nor the norm. The best way to prevent harassment and discrimination is to design a thoughtful and regularly updated workplace harassment prevention program. It must be built around a strong organizational culture that repels misconduct.

The standard definition of sexual harassment, according to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, “is conduct that makes the workplace hostile to a reasonable person either because of the severity of a few incidents, or because of the pervasiveness of even less severe conduct,” says Catherine Fisk, professor of labor and employment law at the Univ. of California, Irvine.  For those of you who feel uncomfortable with a colleague’s behavior and want to report it, first follow your workplace protocols.  You can also call a Board Certified labor and employment attorney for advice.  Feel free to call us!