EEOC sexual harassment claims rise during #MeToo era

Arizona residents are likely aware that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has been accused of rape and sexual assault by dozens of women including A-list movie stars. The allegations leveled against the disgraced producer were the impetus for the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged thousands of women around the world to step forward and share their stories. The movement has also fueled a surge of sexual harassment in the workplace claims according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

The EEOC revealed in a press release on Oct. 5, which is exactly one year after the Weinstein allegations were first reported in the media, that sexual harassment claims are up by 12 percent year over year. The federal agency also says that the 66 sexual harassment lawsuits it has filed against employers in 2017 represents a 50 percent increase in this type of litigation.

Most experts believe the figures are indicative women being increasingly willing to step forward rather than a sign of a growing problem. Sexual harassment claims dropped from 7,944 to 6,696 between 2010 and 2017 according to EEOC data, but the agency's projections suggest that they are set to soar to about 7,500 in 2018. Claims are rising fastest in traditionally blue states like New York and California according to the EEOC.

Attorneys with experience in workplace harassment and discrimination cases may advise workers considering such a claim to gather as much supporting evidence as they can before stepping forward. Such evidence could include lewd emails, photographs of workplace pornography and the names of witnesses. Attorneys could also explain that Arizona law allows conversations to be recorded clandestinely as long as one of the parties involved consents. Corroborating evidence not only improves the chances of a sexual harassment complaint being pursued successfully in court, but it also encourages employers to settle discretely to avoid the negative publicity of a trial.

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