Workers in New Jersey continue to face problems with sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, a reality that has drawn increased public attention as a result of the #MeToo movement. One report analyzed 20 years of data gathered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on instances of sex discrimination on the job. Overall, the number of complaints has remained fairly steady, with a general rise in discrimination and harassment complaints over the 20 years between 1997 and 2017.
Of course, EEOC complaints do not tell the whole story. Many workers hesitate to file an EEOC complaint or otherwise use formal mechanisms, especially if they are concerned about retaliation. Retaliation for sexual harassment or discrimination claims is illegal, but lower-wage workers may feel especially at risk and ill-equipped to use the protections in the law. Of the complaints filed in 2017, 67 percent were found to show no reasonable cause that discrimination occurred. However, many women may not have all of the information that they need to pursue a complaint successfully, even when the discrimination was very much real.
Sexual harassment has garnered most of the headlines about workplace abuse, but 25 percent of the EEOC complaints in 2017 involved allegations of wrongful dismissal on the basis of sex. Another 15 percent related to harassment while 14 percent alleged gender inequality in payment, hiring or promotion. Maternity and paternity discrimination issues were also prominent, both linked to sex discrimination. Parents may be disfavored for promotions or punished for using parental benefits.
Up to 75 percent of sexual harassment incidents on the job go unreported, and the same is true of workplace discrimination. Workers facing mistreatment on the job might opt to consult with an employment law attorney. A lawyer may be able to review their case and provide advice and guidance on moving forward to seek accountability.