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Weinstein Effect: Sexual Harassment Claims Up 12% Nationwide

Sexual harassment claims increased for the first time in years following the October 2017 revelations about Harvey Weinstein, according to new federal data.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission reported a 12% increase in sexual harassment claims compared with the 2017 fiscal year. In a press release, the agency also reported that it had filed 66 harassment lawsuits in the last year, a 50% increase from the year prior.

Harassment claims reported to the EEOC represent a fraction of the total number of claims, but the trend lines are telling. Over the previous seven years, harassment claims had declined from 7,944 in 2010 to 6,696 in 2017. The EEOC’s preliminary data shows an increase to about 7,500 claims in 2018, the highest level since 2012.

The trend was more pronounced in state data released by California and New York earlier this year. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said it received 939 complaints in the first three months of 2018, an 80% jump from the same period last year. The New York Division of Human Rights received 353 complaints for the seven-month period following Oct. 1, 2017, a 60% increase from the same period a year earlier.

The nationwide increase was also far greater following the Anita Hill hearings in 1991. According to EEOC data, the number of claims rose 53% in 1992, the year following Hill’s Senate testimony.

The EEOC typically does not release annual data until later in the calendar year, but issued a release based on preliminary data due to the volume of requests timed to the anniversary of the Weinstein scandal.

“I am so proud of the EEOC staff who stepped up to the heightened demand of the #MeToo movement to make clear that workplace harassment is not only unlawful, it is simply not acceptable,” Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the agency, said in a statement. “As the agency with expertise, as the enforcer of the law, and as an educator, the EEOC has continued to lead the way to achieve the goal of reducing the level of harassment and to promote harassment-free workplaces.”

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