Sexual Harassment Settlements Increase in 2019
February 3, 2020
Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D
In the past two years, the EEOC has seen a 50% increase in monetary benefits recovered in sexual harassment claims.
In January 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released statistics on sexual harassment allegations in 2019. Although the total number of allegations decreased slightly from 2018 to 2019, the monetary benefits recovered by the EEOC set a new record.
In 2019, the EEOC recovered $68.2 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment. This represents a significant increase over the $56.6 million recovered in 2018. The EEOC data does not include sexual harassment settlements obtained through litigation.
From 2010-2017, the monetary recoveries from EEOC sexual harassment allegations remained generally steady. In 2010, the EEOC recovered $41.2 million from sexual harassment allegations. That number dropped to $35 million by 2014 before rebounding to $46.3 million in 2017.
Since 2017, the amount recovered by the EEOC has increased by nearly $22 million. This represents an almost 50% increase in two years.
The EEOC data only reports money recovered during the EEOC process, while excluding money obtained through litigation. As a result, the total damages paid to victims of sexual harassment who file through the EEOC are higher than the $68.2 million reported for 2019. In 2018, for example, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation.
The increase in monetary recoveries occurred while the total number of sexual harassment claims decreased. In 2018, the EEOC received 13,055 allegations of sexual harassment, while in 2019 the EEOC received 12,739 allegations.
The EEOC accepts complaints through its website, by mail or by phone. You can also file a complaint in person at an EEOC office or a state or local Fair Employment Practice Agency.
After accepting a complaint, the EEOC conducts an investigation. As part of the process, the employee and employer may work with an EEOC mediator to enforce the law and reach an agreement. If the investigation uncovers a legal violation, the EEOC will pursue a settlement with the employer. The settlement can include compensatory and punitive damages.
However, in addition to the administrative enforcement mechanisms of the EEOC, victims of sexual harassment can also file a lawsuit. If the EEOC investigation takes more than 180 days or cannot determine whether the employer violated the law, victims can file a lawsuit.
An employment lawyer can help victims of sexual harassment file an EEOC complaint and navigate the process.