There has been an upswing in attention paid to sexual harassment and gender discrimination concerns in the workplace in California and throughout the country, especially after recent scandals in Hollywood and national politics. However, despite the increased attention to the issue, statistics indicate that sexual harassment complaints have actually dropped significantly in the past 20 years. For example, in 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 16,000 complaints related to sexual harassment; in 2017, that number was reduced to 9,600. This reflects a decline of over 40 percent.
When looking at the overall numbers, there are several factors to which this can be attributed. There is a larger number of women in management positions than 20 years ago, and harassment protocols and training are far more common. Most managers have been trained in a workplace environment that clearly states the illegality of sexual harassment. However, a deeper view of the EEOC figures suggests that the situation varies widely depending on the race of the women targeted.
Gender discrimination and racial discrimination frequently interact in the workplace for black women and other women of color. While the EEOC received approximately 200 complaints each month from white women in 1996, it received about 50 monthly complaints from black women. In 2016, the EEOC received around 60 complaints each month from white women, reflecting a major decrease. For black women, however, the rate remained firm at 50 complaints monthly, indicating that black women are not benefiting from any overall trend toward reduced harassment.
People who face sexual harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace may wish to reach out to an employment lawyer to protect their rights and defend their ability to work without harassment. An employment lawyer might help workers file an EEOC complaint or take action in court against employers that allow sexual harassment to continue.