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RELEASE: New Data Obtained by CAP Show Higher Rates of Sexual Harassment Charges in Industries with Large Numbers of Low-wage Jobs

Washington, D.C. — Previously unpublished data obtained by the Center for American Progress show that the epidemic of sexual harassment is not contained to elite circles or wealthy individuals, but occurs at a higher rate in industries with large numbers of low-wage jobs predominantly held by women. An analysis of data from fiscal years 2005 through 2015 reveals that the largest number of charges were filed in the accommodation and food services industry, followed by the retail trade, manufacturing, and health care industries.

Individuals alleging sexual harassment can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the federal agency responsible for enforcing critical employment discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Requested by CAP, data from the EEOC on sexual harassment charges in the private sector show that:

  • More than one-quarter of sexual harassment charges were filed in industries with large numbers of service-sector workers, including many low-wage jobs that are often occupied by women.
  • Nearly three-quarters of sexual harassment charges include an allegation of retaliation, suggesting that many victims face retribution when they come forward or efforts to dissuade them from complaining.
  • More than 80 percent of the claims filed with the EEOC were by women.
  • Nearly one-third of the more than 90,000 charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2016 involved a claim of some form of harassment—almost half of which involved sex-based harassment.

“The epidemic of sexual harassment and recent accusations surrounding high-powered men is deeply troubling, but it’s not the full story: The more we understand that the pervasiveness of sexual harassment is not unique to elite circles, we can begin to identify and deploy effective strategies to combat discriminatory practices where they are most needed,” said Jocelyn Frye, senior fellow at CAP.

Click here to read, “Not Just the Rich and Famous: The Pervasiveness of Sexual Harassment Across Industries Affects All Workers,” by Jocelyn Frye.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Devon Kearns at or 202.741.6290.