Responding to and Investigating Workplace Harassment Claims

Aug 1, 2018 | EEOC, Employment law, Harassment, Sexual Harassment | 0 comments

As can be seen by the momentum gained through this autumn’s #MeToo hashtag and the delayed allegations (sometimes by many decades) against men in positions of power, the majority of people who experience workplace harassment do not report the experience, with statistics indicating only 20-25% of cases are ever brought to employers’ attentions.[1] While harassment is generally thought to mostly impact women, claims from men are on the rise, increasing approximately 10% from 1990 to 2015 to currently account for approximately 17% of all claims of sex-based harassment. These statistics are in addition to other forms of workplace harassment, such as those related to race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

Harassment charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) account for more than 30% of all private sector and approximately 45% of all public-sector charges received by the Commission. Unsurprisingly, claims of sexual harassment represent the largest portion – approximately 45% of all claims in both the private and public sectors – followed by race, disability, and age.[2] Since 2013, the prevention of harassment has been one of the EEOC’s national enforcement priorities and part of its strategic enforcement plan, receiving its own task force and a 2017 call for public input on the current EEOC guidelines.

In light of these statistics, as well as the current media attention related to sexual harassment in particular and the #MeToo trend on social media, it is safe to assume that the EEOC will issue updated guidance standards related to harassment in the coming months. There has never been a more important time for employers to develop a plan for addressing a harassment claim.

In our most recent publication, we help employers develop this plan, including how to process and investigate a claim of harassment, keep track of procedural timelines, discipline guilty parties, address requests for anonymity and confidentiality, mitigate potential retaliation, and otherwise work toward a harassment-free workplace.

[1] See, e.g., Poll by the Huffington Post and YouGov, Aug. 19-20, 2013, available at
[2] The monumental Report of the Co-Chairs of the Select Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace by EEOC Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic may be found at 


Jessica M. Merlet is the founding and principal attorney of the Firm and has more than 15 years of experience in the law. Jessica concentrates her practice on start-ups and SMBs in the technology, software/SaaS, product development, eCommerce, and staffing sectors. Her work as general counsel includes transactional (inc. gov’t contracts,) corporate, data protection, compliance, and labor and employment concerns. She is admitted to practice in the states of Illinois (’08), Georgia (’09), Washington, D.C. (’10), and New York (’20). 

Jessica M. Merlet

Founder and attorney of Octans Legal


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