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Sexual harassment claims fall for white women, not others

The #MeToo movement has cast a spotlight on sexual harassment in California’s entertainment industry, drawing national media attention to an important employment issue. However, these high-profile cases fail to tell the whole story of workplace sexual harassment.

Federal statistics show that overall sexual harassment claims have sharply declined over the past 20 years. However, black and Hispanic women aren’t experiencing the same relief as white women. According to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment complaints have dropped by 40 percent since the mid-1990s. In 1996, white women filed around 200 sexual harassment complaints with the EEOC each month. By 2016, that number had dropped to just 60 a month. However, black women reported around 50 sexual harassment claims a month in 1996 and reported around 50 a month in 2016. The agency only began collecting data on Hispanic employees in 2008, but statistics indicate Hispanic women are not experiencing a significant decline in sexual harassment incidents. Meanwhile, age is also an issue. Sexual harassment complaints by women age 50 and older have increased over the last two decades.

According to employee advocates, employers and managers need to understand that their sexual harassment policies may not be protecting everyone. Companies may need to update their training and reporting policies to address these concerns and make their work environments more inclusive.

A victim of workplace sexual harassment may find it helpful to discuss their situation with an attorney familiar with employment law. After learning the details of the case, the lawyer may recommend filing a complaint with the EEOC, which could result in a financial settlement for damages.