In October of 2017 the #MeToo Movement spread like wildfire through the news and as a hashtag on social media. The primary goal of the movement was to illustrate the prevalence of sexual harassment, assault, and violence in the workplace. Women and men from all walks of life bravely told their stories with the hope of spreading awareness and enacting legal and societal change.
Since the beginning of the Trump administration there have been numerous regulatory rollbacks, however regulations for lawsuits against employers accused of workplace harassment laws have not changed. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), responsible for enforcing the federal laws of discrimination and harassment, filed 199 lawsuits of this kind against companies in 2018. That’s over double the litigation that occurred in 2016. The advance of the #MeToo movement, along with the increase in suits against employers, is not a coincidence that can be ignored.
From 2009 to 2017, the EEOC had an impressive 78% success rate in lawsuits against employers, while companies saw a mere 8% of the suits settled in their favor. A complaint brought against a company might be just the start of long months of time-consuming official requests for information, intrusive investigations and negative publicity. And aside from potentially expensive damages, substantial legal fees are bound to result regardless of the outcome of the case.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employer discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion and includes the prohibition of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined in the law as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not necessarily need to be sexual in nature, and it also includes derogatory comments in relation to gender.
The law does not limit simple teasing, offhanded compliments, or one-off incidents that are not deemed serious. However, if those isolated incidents add up to a hostile work environment and results in adverse employment decisions, such as firings or demotions, that is when the EEOC can and often does step in.
With the rise of these types of lawsuits, coupled with the low success rate of employers defending against EEOC complaints, companies must be aggressive in addressing workplace issues before they find themselves being taken to court. Many business owners are unaware of the laws against discrimination as they are written, as well as the published lists of human resources best practices put forth by the EEOC. To avoid such lawsuits and navigate the complicated legal landscape, it is critical to have a trusted advisor to help proactively address and eliminate workplace problems.
The attorneys at Company Counsel have experience helping companies avoid the deleterious consequences of non-compliance of anti-discrimination as well as other government-mandated laws. We will perform an assessment of your workplace and policies to identify any areas where you may be at risk. And we will help you create a workplace that is both safe for your employees and allows your company to flourish and grow.
Find out how Company Counsel LLC can help you avoid costly litigation, call us at 484-325-5660 to set up a consultation. Learn more about us at www.companycounsel.law.