The number of workplace discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during Fiscal Year 2018 (which ended September 30, 2018) declined to the lowest level since FY 2006, according the EEOC’s recent statistical release. But while the number of charges overall are down, the number of sexual harassment charges increased, as did the number of sexual harassment lawsuits the agency filed. The increase in sexual harassment actions seems to suggest a greater awareness of these issues in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The EEOC’s enforcement and litigation statistics can be found here. The EEOC’s April 10, 2019 press release about the 2018 FY statistics can be found here.
There were 76,418 discrimination charges filed in FY 2018, a decrease of 9.3% from the 84,254 filed in FY 2017, and well below the 2008-2016 annual average of 94,000. The 76,418 charges filed in FY 2018 is the lowest annual number of charges filed since FY 2006.
An April 19, 2019 post about the EEOC statistics on the Human Resource Executive blog (here) quotes a commentator who suggested that the decrease number of charges in FY 2018 is a reflection of the current booming economy and low unemployment rate. The robust employment situation makes it easier for employees experiencing a problem just to change jobs. The fact that the last time the number of charges was as low as the number in 2018 was in 2006, which was the last time unemployment approached current levels, is consistent with the suggestion that the lower number of charge filings is due to the current low unemployment levels.
While the overall number of charges filed with the EEOC decreased in FY 2018, the number of sexual harassment charges increased. There 7,609 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2018, which represents a 13.6 percent increase over the 6,696 sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2017. The number of sexual harassment charges filed in FY 2018 is the highest annual number of sexual harassment charge filings since FY 2011, a year in which the EEOC received almost 24,000 more charges overall than it did in FY 2018. The EEOC also filed more lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in 2018; the agency filed 41 in 2018, representing a 50 percent increase from FY 2017. The agency specifically noted in its press release the impact of #MeToo movement during FY 2018.
The increase in the number of sexual harassment charges in 2018, according to one commentator quoted in the Human Resource Executive blog, shows that employees have a greater awareness of these issues and an increased willingness to file these types of charges. The increased number of EEOC lawsuits, the commentator further noted, show that the “in the #MeToo era, the EEOC has shifted its focus to identifying and remedying workplace harassment issues.”
But while the number of sexual harassment charges has increased, sexual harassment allegations are far from the most frequently cited basis for a charge. The top five reasons charges were filed in FY 2018 were: Retaliations (39,469 charges, 51.6% of all charges); Sex Discrimination (24,655, 32.3%); Disability (24,605, 32.2%); Race (24,600, 32.2%); Age (16,911, 22.21%). The percentages total over 100% because some charges allege more than one kind of misconduct. While sexual harassment charges increased in FY 2018, sexual harassment charges represent a relatively small number of charges compared to other types of allegations.