Sexual Harassment Statistics - What Are the Odds of a Lawsuit?

September 27, 2018| Von Mindy Pollack | EPLI | English

Region: North America

Did you know that one in four women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?1 Or that over one-third of HR professionals reported at least one sexual harassment complaint in the past year?2

Bad behavior by celebrities and CEOs get the most attention, but small business owners are also vulnerable to sexual harassment claims and lawsuits, too. Restaurants, retailers and manufacturers are the top three sectors by number of claims, but healthcare, contractors, auto servicing and professional offices have paid verdicts and settlements, as well.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the findings of The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other organizations:3

  • Sexual harassment is more prevalent in small businesses than mid- and large-size firms.
  • 72% of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC include allegations of retaliation.
  • 50% of small businesses have no policies for handling sexual harassment complaints.
  • Many small employers do not tolerate harassment in the workplace and have not received any complaints.

However, the harsh spotlight on sexual harassment is prompting more insureds and agents to review their practices and seek loss prevention help rather than risk a lawsuit.

Most mid- to large-size employers have employee handbook policies and training programs to educate employees and keep their workplaces harassment-free. This approach can be a challenge for the many small businesses lacking human resource staff or the budget for outside help.

To help fill the void, Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policies have become an important piece of insurance and loss prevention for small employers. EPLI provides defense and indemnity from costly employee lawsuits at an affordable price.

What many businesses may not realize is that buying EPLI protection also gives them – at no cost - access to two valuable services, a Legal Hotline and a Loss Prevention website. These resources have been shown to help employers prevent claims. Businesses can take advantage of online training, compliance checklists and direct guidance from employment law specialists. Here is just one sample best practice checklist to keep sexual harassment out of the workplace: Tips for Spotting Sexual Harassment.4

 Many insurers and risk management firms have seen an increase in the usage of anti-harassment training and guidance in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and emergence of the #MeToo movement. We expect those numbers will continue to rise when New York State laws mandating sexual harassment training for all size employers take full effect.

The odds are good that a small business will be faced with sexual harassment complaints in the workplace, whether this year or in the future. It’s a safe bet that buying an EPLI policy and leveraging loss prevention services will reduce the likelihood of a complaint.


  1. Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (2016), Feldblum and Lipnic.
  2. Society for Human Resource Management survey (2018).
  3. Ibid. See also: "Not Just the Rich and Famous", Frye, Center for American Progress, November 2017; Emery, McGeer and Jackson, "10 Key Findings: Sexual Harassment in the Professional Workplace", 2018.


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