Study finds changing patterns in sexual harassment complaints

Although reports of sexual harassment have dropped in Arizona and nationwide since 1995, some segments of workers have enjoyed more progress than others. Complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have fallen by 40 percent since 1997, but a closer look at the data reveals that older women, minorities and employees at large companies continue to experience widespread harassment.

When BuzzFeed News analyzed data from over 60,000 cases obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the EEOC, the news organization calculated a 70 percent decline in complaints from small companies. This drop took place between 1995 and 2016 with 1996 representing the peak year for complaints. During the same period, complaints from workers at large companies only went down by 30 percent compared to 1995 levels. The findings suggest that small companies might improve their workplace cultures by the removal or discipline of one or two employees whereas a pervasive culture of harassment at a large company might prove more difficult to correct.

The rate of complaints from African-American women has remained consistent for the past 20 years. When looking at age, the rate of complaints coming from women in their 40s has remained the same across the decades. Women 50 and over have become a rising source of complaints.

The law obligates most employers to make a good faith investigation into complaints of sexual harassment. Someone who has experienced unwanted sexual advances, exposure to lewd materials or unfair treatment on the basis of sex might approach an attorney for advice when filing a complaint. An attorney may organize evidence and urge the employer to resolve the problem and offer a settlement. When necessary, an attorney might file a lawsuit against the employer in order to pursue a jury award for financial damages resulting from mistreatment at work.

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