Same sex harassment: More men make harassment claims

Since the start of the recession, a growing number of sexual harassment complaints have come from men. Some 16.4% of all sexual harassment claims—or 2,094 claims—were filed by men in fiscal 2009, up from 15.4%, or 1,869 claims, in fiscal 2006, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While there’s usually a spike in employment litigation during economic downturns, claims filed by men are on the rise. David McManus, a partner at Morgan Lewis’s labor and employment practice, speaks with WSJ reporter Dana Mattioli.

While male victims sometimes experience behavior like groping and unwanted sexual advances, employment lawyers say increasingly “locker room” type behavior like vulgar talk and horseplay with sexual connotations have been the subject of claims.

Ron Chapman, an attorney with employment law firm Ogletree Deakins in Dallas, says in most cases the man suing is someone who has been fired or laid off.

Cintas Corp., CTAS -0.23% a Cincinnati business services company that makes uniforms and other products, is involved in a case where two former male employees alleged a male co-worker at a Pennsylvania location sexually groped and made unwanted sexual advances. The two men who filed the complaint were laid off as part of a broader work-force reduction and filed the complaint several months later in October 2008, says a Cintas spokeswoman. The case, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in September 2009, is still pending.

The spike in male sexual harassment claims coincides with a recession that has hit men harder than women. From September 2008 to January 2010, 4.4 million men lost their jobs compared with 2.3 million women, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. As the economic downturn took hold in 2008, sexual harassment filings by men and women jumped by 10.8% to 13,920 claims. Employment lawyers say that when jobs are harder to obtain, many forms of litigation, especially discrimination, increase.

In the past, victims of harassment—especially men—might have “voted with their feet,” and found new jobs rather than turning to the legal system, says Greg Grant, an attorney with Shulman Rogers in Washington, D.C. “When they can’t get other jobs and they still have to pay the bills and support families,” they have to either live with the harassment or risk the potential stigma of speaking out, says Mr. Grant. And sexual harassment experts say the numbers are still under-reported because of the stigma associated with men who are sexually harassed.

The Other Harassment Victims: Men

Sexual harassment claims filed by men make up a larger percentage of claims than ever before.

State 2009 2007
Utah 32.2% 21.7%
West Virginia 27.3 33.3
Michigan 26.6 16.6
Wyoming 24 9.5
Wisconsin 23 18.7

Source: the EEOC

The share of claims filed by men rose more in some states with higher than average unemployment rates. Although the numbers by state are sometimes too small to compare, in states that were hit hard by the recession, there is enough data to show the link. In Michigan, where unemployment stood at 14.6% in January 2009, the percentage of claims by men increased to 26.6% in 2009 from 16.6% in 2007. California saw a rise to 23.6% from 18.7% over the same period.

By  Dana Mattioli

To read more, click WSJ

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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