Black Women Disproportionately Experience Workplace Sexual Harassment, New NWLC Report Reveals

Black Women Disproportionately Experience Workplace Sexual Harassment, New NWLC Report Reveals

(Washington, D.C.)  Black women filed sexual harassment charges at nearly three times the rate of white, non-Hispanic women with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to a new NWLC report that analyzes sexual harassment charges filed by women in the private sector between 2012 and 2016. In every industry, Black women are disproportionately represented among women who filed sexual harassment charges. The Center’s report—Out of the Shadows: An Analysis of Sexual Harassment Charges Filed by Working Women—features intersectional analysis of the data by race, gender, age, and by industry and size of employer.

Although an estimated 87 to 94 percent of individuals who experience workplace sexual harassment never file a formal legal complaint, nearly 7,000 sexual harassment charges were filed with the EEOC in 2016 alone—and 82 percent of these charges were filed by women.

“The statistics confirm that sexual harassment is alive and well across all industries—and  women of color working low-wage jobs are facing the brunt of this abuse,” said Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center. “When companies circle the wagons to protect the power and reputations of harassers, it sends a chilling message:  if you speak up, you’ll pay a steep price. We need solutions that ensure safety and dignity at work for everyone.”

The report’s topline data include:

  • More than 1 in 3 women who filed sexual harassment charges also reported retaliation.
  • Millennial women (born between 1980 and 1996) and women in Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) filed more sexual harassment charges with the EEOC than women in the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964).
  • Women employed at small companies with 15-100 employees filed the largest share of sexual harassment charges.
  • Women working in accommodations and food services, including restaurants, filed the largest share of sexual harassment charges —about 14 percent of all charges in which an industry was identified.
  • Industries with the highest rates of sexual harassment charges filed by women in addition to accommodation and food services include: retail trade; health care and social assistance; manufacturing; and administration, support and waste management & remediation services.

The report highlights inconsistencies and gaps in the EEOC’s data collection and suggests changes that will expand and solidify the available data regarding the context from which sexual harassment charges arise. Specific recommendations to employers and legislators on how to best address workplace sexual harassment—such as developing strong policies, implementing interactive training that educates employees, and consistently holding people accountable for failing to meet those standards—are also included.



For immediate release:  August 2, 2018
Contact:  Maria Patrick ([email protected]) & Olympia Feil ([email protected])


NWLC sexual harassment experts are available to discuss the broader implications of the data and the impact of sexual harassment on the workforce.

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s equality and opportunity. The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit: