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Bloomberg – Sexual Harassment Cases Go Uncounted as Complaint Process Goes Private

Jeff Green, Bloomberg: “Even as women have begun speaking out about sexual harassment at work, the number of official complaints to state and federal regulators hit a two-decade low in 2017. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and its state-level counterparts received just over 9,600 complaints in 2017, according to data obtained by Bloomberg, down from more than 16,000 in 1997—a 41 percent drop.But few experts think the decline means people—women, mostly—are facing 41 percent less sexual harassment, only that the complaint and resolution process is getting more private. Ninety-five percent of companies now have an in-house complaint process, the Society for Human Resource Management said in a January report. Eighty-two percent have an investigation protocol in place.  “It creates a false illusion that we’ve sort of solved the problem because we have the hotlines, we have systems in place, we’ve done the training,” said Orly Lobel, a labor and employment law professor at the University of San Diego. “There’s a public price we’re paying for not knowing what’s going on in our workplaces.” Every U.S. state saw the rate of sexual harassment per 100,000 women in the workforce fall over the last 20 years, but the drops weren’t uniform. Complaints in Maine fell by 96 percent, the biggest single-state drop. Michigan had the smallest, at about 19 percent, according to the EEOC data. It’s hard to compare, though, because state laws vary significantly, as do their enforcement. For example, Alabama has no state laws regulating harassment. California has a strict law…”

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