EEOC FY2018 Filings Report Reflects #MeToo Impact

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 3, 2018

A review of FY2018 filings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) showed a large jump in the number of lawsuits filed, especially for sexual harassment cases. The preliminary findings of Seyfarth Shaw's annual EEOC filing report indicate that the agency has increased its litigation efforts, despite being short two commissioners and with its General Counsel position still unfilled.

The EEOC filed 217 actions in FY2018 according to the report, comprised of 197 merits lawsuits and 20 subpoena enforcement actions, far surpassing the number of filings in recent years. Claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act account for 55% of all the filings, making it the largest category. That is similar to the 53% rate of Title VII filings in FY2017, but well above such filings in FY2014, FY2015 and FY2016.

Of the Title VII cases, 74% target sex-based discrimination this year, an increase from the 65% of such cases filed in FY2017. By comparison, cases for race discrimination fell by 25%. The report attributes the EEOC's increase in sex-based cases to the #MeToo movement, matching efforts by the states to combat sexual harassment.

"The most striking trend of all is the substantial increase in sex-based discrimination filings, primarily the number of sexual harassment filings," said Gerald Maatman, a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw. "As predicted, #MeToo added fuel to this area of the EEOC's agenda and the EEOC is increasing its enforcement activity, with a particular focus on sex discrimination and sexual harassment."

The study showed that claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act in FY2018 made up the next largest segment of filings at 43%, followed by suits for age discrimination at 5%. Interestingly, lawsuits for Equal Pay Act (EPA) violations actually decreased, which the report attributes to the EEOC's renewed focus on equal pay issues affecting protected groups other than women. Those actions would not fall under the EPA's jurisdiction.

In its news release on preliminary FY2018 filings data, the EEOC reported that it filed 66 lawsuits challenging workplace harassment, 41 alleging sexual harassment - an increase of more than 50% over FY 2017. The EEOC also noted that it recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.