Underreported Sexual Harassment Lawsuits
Last year the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC dropped to the lowest it has been in nearly two decades. In 2010, the EEOC reports having only 11,717 new cases, nearly as low as it was in1993, and down from a high of almost 16,000 cases in 1997.
One hopes that that this change marks a healthy shift in our workplace culture, that sexual harassment simply happens less now than it did last year. Certainly efforts to educate employers and well-publicized harassment cases have made a positive impact in some employment settings. The decrease in reported cases, however, does not mean that sexual harassment is actually occurring less. It only means that there are fewer reported cases.
Ms. Ziaja regularly writes about law and policy developments for LegalMatch.
One possible answer to why the number of cases has decreased is that workers, fearing for their jobs, are reluctant to pursue legal assistance. This behavior is hinted at in a comparison of the number of cases filed with the EEOC and the national unemployment rate. There is a general trend—as unemployment figures go up, the reported number sexual harassment cases go down.
Workers who have suffered discrimination and sexual harassment should not have to feel hopeless because of their economic situation. Playing on an employee’s fear of losing his or her job is part of harassment. In other words, if you are being harassed, do not allow a weak economy be another tool of your harasser. Instead, seek legal help.