• October marks #MeToo anniversary
• Previous data didn't show change in complaints
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeing a moderate increase in sexual harassment complaints, less than one year after the birth of the #MeToo movement.
Harassment claims filed with the EEOC are up more than 3 percent so far this year compared with 2016, Commissioner Chai Feldblum (D) told Bloomberg Law Sept. 12. That comes as total discrimination and harassment claims dropped by nearly 12 percent.
The preliminary figures mark the first rise in harassment claims since sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked the #MeToo movement in October. EEOC officials have seen a jump in visitors to the agency's website as assault, harassment, and other allegations swirled against various public figures, but previous data didn't show a spike in workers filing harassment complaints under federal civil rights law.
“Thank goodness that the narrative about sexual harassment has caught the country's attention,” Feldblum said at a New York University event earlier in the day. “Shame on us if we don't use this opportunity to make structural changes to stop harassment on all bases.”
The EEOC enforces Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans sex, race, religion, and other forms of bias in the workplace. Sexual harassment on the job is considered a form of sex discrimination.
Feldblum said sex-based harassment accounts for about 46 percent of the harassment complaints filed with the agency.
Workers filed nearly 57,000 complaints with the EEOC in the first three quarters of this year, down from more than 64,000 over the same period in 2017. Feldblum attributed that change to an updated claim filing system that flags complaints that aren't covered by Title VII.
Sex harassment claims, however, ticked up to more than 9,800 over the same time.
The EEOC will make the data public once it has been verified, Feldblum said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org