• The Workplace
  • Report
  • Higher Ed

Workplace Harassment: A Review of Sexual Harassment and Assault Claims

Hillary Pettegrew, Esq.
May 2021

Why Read This

Sexual misconduct in the workplace remains a serious problem, as demonstrated by the exponential growth in #MeToo allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Sexual harassment claims are rising nationwide across all industries, according to statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In October 2018, the agency observed that visits to its sexual harassment website page had more than doubled in the last year.

Higher education isn’t immune from these broader trends, and claims received by United Educators (UE) demonstrate that campus workplace sexual misconduct claims continue to be costly, economically and otherwise. This report examines 102 claims reported to UE from January 2013 through December 2017 involving alleged sexual harassment or assault among higher education employees. UE and our members sustained losses of more than $10 million due to these claims.

This report then recommends actions institutions can take to manage these risks and reduce potential liability while improving employee well-being and job satisfaction.

Key Takeaways

  • About 24% of UE’s alleged sexual misconduct claims during this claims review involved lawsuits; the others involved charges filed with the EEOC, a comparable state agency, attorney demand letters, or complaints received directly from employees.
  • Claims reviewed highlight the importance of reviewing policies and procedures that may affect workplace sexual misconduct — especially policies and procedures pertaining to prevention of and response to employment discrimination, employee performance evaluations, and consensual relationships between employees.
  • Evaluating your institution’s harassment prevention training programs for supervisors and employees can help eliminate harassment and reduce claims.

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