Harassment Up, Discrimination Down in New EEOC Report

New EEOC data suggests discrimination is down but sexual harassment is growing.
By: | April 19, 2019 • 2 min read
EEOC discrimination and harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal year 2018, according to just-released figures. That workplace discrimination continues to happen is the bad news. But the good news is the EEOC’s discrimination data signals less people are finding reasons to sue their employers.

According to John Maley, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, the 2018 total EEOC charges of 76,418 continues a downward trend over the last several years.  In fact, from 2008 to 2016, the average number of charges was 94,000, he says. In 2017, the total dropped to 84,254, and dropped again last year by a similar amount.


“This could correlate to the high demand for labor/low unemployment rate [and thus more hirings/fewer firings],” Maley says.

The FY 2018 data show that retaliation continued to be the most frequently filed discrimination charge filed with the agency, followed by sex, disability and race. The agency also received 7,609 sexual harassment charges—a 13.6 percent increase from FY 2017—and obtained $56.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment.

The charge numbers show the following top five reasons alleged, in descending order:

  • Retaliation: 39,469 (51.6 percent of all charges filed)
  • Sex: 24,655 (32.3 percent)
  • Disability: 24,605 (32.2 percent)
  • Race: 24,600 (32.2 percent)
  • Age: 16,911 (22.1 percent)

Matthew Gagnon, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, says that the EEOC’s FY 2018 enforcement and litigation data’s sizeable decrease in the total number of charges filed against employers—the number of charges filed was the lowest in over a decade—is a good sign.

“However, the big news of fiscal year 2018 continues to be the sharp increase in enforcement activity around sexual-harassment issues,” he says.

Gagnon notes the EEOC filed 41 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in FY 2018—a 50 percent increase from FY 2017.

“This shows that, in the #MeToo era, the EEOC has shifted its focus to identifying and remedying workplace harassment issues,” he says. The just-released charge statistics, Gagnon adds, show that this is not just a trend within the EEOC.

“Despite the drop in the total number of charges, the EEOC’s statistics show a sharp increase in the number of charges alleging sexual harassment,” Gagnon explains. He notes that the 7,609 charges alleging sexual harassment in FY 2018 is the highest number of those charges since FY 2011—a year when the EEOC received almost 24,000 more charges overall than it did in FY 2018.