Following #MeToo, Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaints Spiked

New data shows that workplace harassment complaints have increased in the year since #MeToo went viral.

The #MeToo movement is having a clear impact on the reporting of sexual harassment cases across the country. According to new data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplaces around the nation have seen a significant jump in harassment complaints in the year since the campaign went mainstream.

Tarana Burke originally founded the #MeToo movement in 2006, but it became part of a national conversation in October 2017 following the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Over the course of the last 12 months, the phrase #MeToo has been used as a mantra for people to share countless stories of sexual harassment or assault, often involving high-profile men in positions of power.

But while the allegations against public figures are making headlines, the movement is having an effect that spreads far beyond what winds up in newsprint. While overall complaints have gone down this year, charges of sexual harassment are up. According to NBC News, around 7,500 complaints of harassment have been received between October 2017 and September 2018. That marks a 12 percent increase compared to the complaints filed in 2016.

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The EEOC has also filed 41 sexual harassment lawsuits over the past year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, visits to the EEOC's sexual harassment webpage have also more than than doubled in the year since #MeToo took off.

This marks the first time in at least eight years that the agency has seen an increase in the filing of harassment complaints. All in all, the EEOC reports that it has recovered nearly $70 million in through litigation and administrative enforcement sexual harassment-related issues in 2018, up from $47.5 million in 2017.

"The people who come to the EEOC are in mom-and-pop shops and small companies and everyday companies," acting chair of EEOC, Victoria Lipnic said, according to The Washington Post. "This stuff happens everywhere. If you don't address it in your workplace, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a federal enforcement."

It's important to note that these numbers don't reflect the individuals who chose to file charges somewhere other than the EEOC. As the Washington Post outlines, employees can also file with a state agency or make internal complaints with their employer — meaning the EEOC filings don't represent the total number of sexual harassment cases in the workplace for that time period.

Still, the data indicates that the #MeToo campaign, while controversial at times, has become an important factor in a broader cultural movement against sexual misconduct. As Lipnic told NBC News, "The impact of the #MeToo movement is undeniable."

Cover image via  fizkes / Shutterstock.

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