Sometimes, harassment is overt: think unwanted touching, physical intimidation, or verbal threats. Other times, it assumes subtler, but no less destructive forms: inappropriate questions during interviews, cyberstalking, exclusion, or policies and “unwritten” rules that allow those in power to dodge accountability and ignore alleged harassers’ behavior.
Whatever it looks like, wherever it occurs, harassment takes a massive toll—not only on those who experience it, but the organizations for which they work. In 2016, more than 6,700 charges of sexual harassment were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That year, the EEOCobtained more than $40.7 million dollars in monetary benefits on behalf of sexually harassed employees. Keep in mind that this statistic doesn’t include the millions of dollars obtained by harassed employees through litigation. And, for the victim, there are also less visible, indirect costs incurred by harassment, including reputational harm, missed opportunities, mental health issues, and physical health problems.
If you’ve been following the news or paying attention to your social media feeds, you probably know much of this already. But sexual harassment, the kind the #TimesUp and #MeToo campaigns seek to address, is only one type of harassment. Workplace harassment based on race, disability, age, religion, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation can occur just as frequently, and in the eyes of the law, it’s just as serious. Don’t forget: harassment is a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
These cases can carry massive costs for employers—and monetary benefits secured by the EEOC are increasing, year after year. Take a look at EEOC trends related to the total number of harassment charges and plaintiffs’ awards have since 2010.