EEOC Brief – Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits discrimination based on sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity). Sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII.

Preventing and remedying harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment, has long been a top agency priority. This EEOC data highlight focuses on charges alleging sexual harassment under Title VII filed with the agency beginning in FY 2018, when the #MeToo movement went viral and received international attention, through FY 2021.

EEOC Charge Data (FY 2018 – FY 2021)

Between FY 2018 and FY 2021, the EEOC received a total of 98,411 charges alleging harassment under any basis and 27,291 charges alleging sexual harassment. Of significant note is the increased number of sexual harassment charges received by the EEOC in the two years following #MeToo going viral in October 2017 (see Figure 1).

In FY 2018, the EEOC received 7,609 sexual harassment charges compared to 6,696 in FY 2017 – an increase of 13.6%. Additionally, sexual harassment charges as a percentage of all harassment charges began increasing in FY 2018. Between FY 2018 and FY 2021, sexual harassment charges accounted for 27.7% of all harassment charges compared to 24.7% of all harassment charges between FY 2014 and FY 2017. Sexual harassment charges also accounted for a greater percentage of the total charges under all statutes received by the EEOC between FY 2018 and FY 2021 (9.8%) compared to between FY 2014 and FY 2017 (7.7%). Also, between FY 2018 and FY 2021, harassment charges made up 35.4% of the total charges (277,872) received by the EEOC.

Companies can help prevent harassment by:

  • Informing employees that harassment is prohibited;
  • Identifying who employees should contact to discuss harassment questions or concerns;
  • Assuring employees that they will not be punished for asking questions or sharing their concerns;
  • Responding to harassment questions or concerns and investigating harassment complaints promptly and effectively; and
  • Ensuring that managers understand their responsibility to stop, address, and prevent harassment.