Since the #MeToo movement began in fall 2017, many have wondered how it will affect both the volume and direction of sexual misconduct litigation around the country. It seems that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is trying to determine the same — indicated both through the commission’s recent statements analyzing its own workload and by the reconvening of the Obama-era Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.
Trends at the EEOC: Workplace Trainings and Charges
In a recent statement, the EEOC indicated its sexual misconduct-related workload has increased across all offices. However, the increasing workload mostly relates to requests to perform workplace trainings.
The acting chair of the EEOC, Victoria Lipnic, recently stated that the EEOC noted upticks in sexual misconduct reporting in human resources departments and through internal systems. This indicates a higher volume of issues being resolved internally before complainants file charges with the EEOC, as there has not yet been a significant increase in the filing of misconduct charges with the commission. However, this trend may continue to evolve: Complainants have 300 days to file a complaint, which makes it too soon to gauge the effect the still-maturing #MeToo movement may have on EEOC litigation.
Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace
The EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reconvened on June 8, 2018 in Washington to discuss what employers and policymakers can do to prevent workplace harassment and to effect permanent change discouraging harassment and related misconduct in the workplace. The Obama administration convened this task force in January 2015 specifically to study harassment in the workplace, and its most recent meeting was June 20, 2016. Lipnic stated that, at the task force’s first meeting in two years, the focus was on what members consider to be “second- and third-generation” harassment issues. These include creating more effective solutions for preventing harassment and looking critically at the use of non-disclosure and arbitration agreements that many argue have the effect of silencing victims. Though the task force has not yet made specific policy recommendations in the wake of #MeToo, the members seem to believe that recent and current events and trends in public opinion have provided them with a unique opportunity to create significant and lasting change.
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