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Sexual harassment statistics don't show whole picture

While federal statistics show that sexual harassment complaints are going down, many women in New York City and across the country continue to experience unwanted advances and other forms of harassment on the job. In 2017, the number of official sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state agencies was approximately 9,600, a 41 percent drop from 16,000 in 1997. From a high of 24 complaints per 100,000 women employees, in 2017, the number hovered at around 9 per 100,000.

However, many experts say that these statistics are less likely to reflect an equivalent decline in workplace sexual harassment. Instead, they say, 95 percent of companies now have private, in-house processes to deal with such complaints. Another 82 percent have a protocol for handling investigations into sexual harassment. This means that most investigations and complaints today are not reflected in public statistics. However, surveys also show that up to 75 percent of instances of sexual harassment are never reported at all.

It is illegal for companies to bar complaints to the EEOC, which can officially investigate and determine whether a case can proceed to court. However, many employers have imposed arbitration clauses on workers that impel employees to handle complaints through corporate, rather than public, processes. Some states are looking into potential legislation that could require companies to disclose their internal statistics about sexual harassment complaints.

Across the board, state attorneys general have urged Congress to act to prevent sexual harassment victims from being forced to use arbitration. The legal process can be critical to securing justice for people who have been harassed on the job, and having the representation of experienced counsel can be critical.

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