by Rich Bellis
Originally published: April 7. 2016
Anita Hill started a national conversation about sexual harassment 25 years ago, but many U.S. employees still have no legal protections.
It’s been 25 years since Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas brought the issue into the national spotlight. Next week, HBO will release a drama starring Kerry Washington that reprises the controversy of the Justice's Supreme Court nomination hearings in 1991. Since workplace sexual harassment has been part of the national conversation for over two decades, you might assume that the issue is basically settled, or at least that there are protections in place for all employees.
Far from it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—ironically, the federal agency Thomas chaired in 1982 and 1983, when Hill reported to him—processed more than 6,800 new sexual harassment charges in 2015. And while that figure was down by about 14% from 2010, it still very likely represents a small fraction of the misconduct that takes place in workplaces nationwide.
It's widely believed that most incidents go unreported, and while 17% of the sexual harassment charges were filed to the EEOC by men last year, women are disproportionate victims. A recent survey by Cosmopolitan estimates that up to one in three women are sexually harassed at work.