Employers Prepare As Reports of Sexual Harassment Spike

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 27, 2019 and has been updated for accuracy on September 12, 2019.

Author, Alyssa Burley, Media Communications and Client Services Manager, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

Americans are all too familiar with the #MeToo movement that has shed light on sexual harassment in the workplace. Outspoken celebrities and prominent public figures have brought this topic to the forefront in the media. With all the publicity surrounding sexual harassment allegations, people are empowered to speak out and report unwanted behaviors in the workplace. This leaves many employers asking what they can do to prevent harassment and prepare for possible harassment allegations.

Sexual Harassment Complaint Form on a clipboard with a pen and glasses.

Charges Alleging Sexual Harassment FY 2010 - FY 2018

EEOC. Charges Alleging Sexual Harassment FY 2010 - FY 2018.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its “Charges Alleging Sexual Harassment FY 2010 - FY 2018” report. The data shows from 2010 to 2017 reports of alleged sexual harassment incidents actually declined 15.7%, over the seven-year span. However, based on the data, it is difficult to know if incidents of sexual harassment declined or just the reporting of incidents declined.

However, during 2018 there was an increase of 13.6% in alleged sexual harassment incidents, which accounted for over 7,600 claims at a cost of $56.6 million dollars in damages.

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Percentage Change Over Previous Year
Number of Charges
Percentage Change Over Previous Year
Damages (In Millions)

EEOC. Charges Alleging Sexual Harassment FY 2010 - FY 2018. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment_new.cfm.

California’s Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343) now requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide 2-hour Anti-Harassment training to supervisors and 1-hour training to employees, every two years. As part of this new requirement, the initial training must be completed for all employees and supervisors by January 1, 2021, according to Senate Bill 778, approved on August 30, 2019, which extends the training due date. The changes made by SB 778 not only extends the due date to January 1, 2021, but also addresses concerns about supervisory employees and clarifies when temporary workers must be trained. Read about the changes here.

It’s our belief that as more people are trained to recognize harassment in its many forms, we expect to see the number of reported alleged harassment incidents increase in the coming years. So, what should California employers do to mitigate this increased risk?

Course of Action

For employers, the best course of action is two-fold. Make sure you are compliant by training your employees and supervisors; second, make sure you have Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) as part of your risk management portfolio.

Training Supervisors and Employees

Understanding the confusion, time and financial burden SB 1343 puts on all California employers, Rancho Mesa offers its clients SB 1343-compliant free online supervisor and employee Anti-Harassment training. Supervisor and employee trainings can be completed 100% online via a computer, tablet or mobile device.

California employers who are not clients of Rancho Mesa can find this training through 3rd party vendors that work in the Human Resource arena and will need to contract with them directly to meet this requirement.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)

EPLI is “a type of liability insurance covering wrongful acts arising from the employment process. The most frequent types of claims covered under such policies include: wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation,” according to the International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

If your organization currently does not have EPLI, or you are unsure about what is covered in your policy, we recommend you contact your insurance broker or call us to get clarification. With the projected increase in these types of claims, not having this vital coverage in place could expose your company to severe negative financial impacts.

Whether the increase in reported alleged sexual harassment incidents is a result of more incidents or simply more people feeling comfortable reporting the harassment, every employer should be prepared to properly train their employees and supervisors, while actively working to prevent and stop all forms of harassment in the workplace.

Contact the Rancho Mesa Insurance Services Client Services Department at (619) 438-6869 or aburley@ranchomesa.com for more information about free anti-harassment training for supervisors and employees, or learn more through our other articles on the topic.

Alyssa Burley is NOT a licensed insurance professional. Informational statements regarding insurance coverage are for general description purposes only. Contact a licensed insurance professional for specific questions.