Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaints Up 45% in Past Year

Number of overall discrimination complaints rose by 9%, compared to the previous year.

Haim Bior
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Haim Bior

There was a 45% increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints filed during the last Jewish year, according to a new report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The number of overall complaints rose by 9%, compared to the previous Jewish year, with the commission receiving a total of 925 complaints of workplace mistreatment. The 45% increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints was the largest of any single category, followed by a 35% rise in the volume of complaints alleging gender discrimination in hiring or firing.

There was a 30% increase in the number of complaints of religious discrimination, according to the report released Tuesday by commission director Tziona Koenig-Yair, and a 26% rise in the number of cases opened due to alleged employer discrimination of pregnant employees.

"The increased dimensions of discrimination prompts concern," Koenig-Yair said, adding that despite the passage of additional antidiscrimination laws in recent years, there are still many employers who violate the law. The problem must be addressed through educational efforts as well as by deterring illegal discrimination through increased enforcement of the law, she said.

Fully 49% of the complaints received by the commission over the past year alleged unfair treatment based on gender, or related to the complainant having children. Among the other complaints was age discrimination connected either to failure to hire prospective employees due to their age or efforts to encourage older employees to retire.

Also prevalent were complainants who claimed unfair treatment after they were called up for military reserve duty.

Forty-five percent of the complaints over the course of the year were based on alleged mistreatment of employees who were terminated from their jobs, while 19% were based on purported employer misconduct in the hiring process. Gender discrimination featured very prominently as a basis for complaints, and two-thirds of the complaints were filed by women.

To a great extent, the circumstances that gave rise to the complaints was also different between men and women, particularly with respect to the stage in their careers during which the alleged mistreatment arose. Among women, for example, 45% of the cases involved alleged discrimination related to pregnancy; 7% due to the women's age; another 7% allegedly due to the fact that the woman had children; 6% because the women were undergoing fertility treatments; and another 6% simply because they were female.

Failure to accommodate reserve duty

Among the files opened by men, 16% related to alleged employer misconduct in connection with employees' reserve duty; another 12% alleged age discrimination and a similar proportion was based on the pregnancy of the employee's spouse; 7% alleged religious discrimination; while another roughly 7% claimed they were mistreated simply because they are men.

Six percent alleged discrimination in hiring or in their job conditions based on their national origin, which in the Israeli context generally relates to being either Arab or Jewish.

When it comes to cases involving service in the military reserves, two-thirds claimed they were fired due to their military service. Another 27% claimed their employment conditions worsened for doing reserve duty. In most cases of alleged discrimination based on nationality, it was generally over employer-hiring practices.

In filings involving alleged age discrimination, 45% of complainants claimed they weren't hired due to their age, but another 41% claimed they were terminated from employment due to age.

Applicants at a job fair.Credit: Bloomberg