There were 667 sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC by workers employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries from 2005-15, according to the latest data provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the federal agency charged with preventing workplace harassment has taken very few of those cases to court.
During the past year, the commission has filed sexual harassment suits against 16 companies, settled four others and won a jury verdict in another. Chipolte was sued, and so were Applebee’s and IHOP, but not a single movie studio, network, talent agency or production company was sued by the EEOC for sexual harassment.
Deadline has reviewed more than 600 EEOC press releases – every one issued since October 1, 2009 – and only two announced the settlement of sexual harassment lawsuits involving the entertainment industry, the epicenter of the nation’s ever-widening sexual harassment and abuse scandal.
In November 2009, Regal Entertainment Group agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by the EEOC on behalf of a male employee at the Marina del Rey cinema complex who the EEOC said “was subjected to a sexually hostile workplace by a female co-worker who repeatedly grabbed his crotch.” (Read the settlement filing here.)
And in August 2010, the companies that own and produce the Dallas-based TV show Cheaters paid $50,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC and two female claimants who were subjected to sexually explicit remarks and unwelcome touching from the companies’ owner and upper-management staff.
Asked how many of the 667 complaints filed by workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries actually went to court, EEOC spokesman Joseph Olivares told Deadline: “While I do not have the numbers on hand, I believe the number of cases litigated, if any, are probably very small. For example, we took in 91,503 charges of discrimination in fiscal year 2016 and litigated 114.”
That’s a litigation rate of fewer than one in 800 involving all types of discrimination complaints – race, religion, age, sex, national origin and disability – across all sectors of private industry.
Across all private sector industries, the EEOC received 27,893 charges of employment discrimination in fiscal year 2015, nearly a third of which alleged workplace harassment of some type. And of that third, nearly half (45%) were sexual harassment complaints. And of those, 62 were filed by workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries – 16 of which were by men.
The EEOC estimates that only about 10% of the men and women who feel they were sexually harassed in the workplace ever file a complaint with the agency. Based on that estimate, some 7,500 workers might have felt they were subjected to sexual harassment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors during those 11 years – or about 680 a year, on average.
“Approximately 90% of individuals who say they have experienced harassment never take formal action against the harassment, such as filing a charge or a complaint,” the EEOC said in its most recent report on the subject.
The EEOC declined to provide the names of the 667 complainants or the companies they worked for. “Unfortunately, we cannot provide you names of companies that had charges placed against them and/or settled,” Olivares said, noting that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “has strict confidentiality provisions where we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a charge or provide information on investigations and administrative resolutions. Information on specific charges become public only when the EEOC files a lawsuit, which is typically a last resort.”
The EEOC can make employers pay for workplace harassment even without taking them to court. In 2015, the commission resolved 28,642 private sector harassment allegations, but only 5,518 – fewer than one in five – were resolved in favor of the charging party through its administrative enforcement pre-litigation process.
This, the EEOC said, resulted in $125.5 million in benefits for private sector employees that year. And from 2010-15, employers have paid out $698.7 million to employees alleging harassment through the Commission’s administrative enforcement pre-litigation process. The EEOC would not say how much, if any, of this was paid out by entertainment industry-related companies.
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