Sex Harassment Against Men a Growing Problem

September 17, 2004 ( - While many still assume that a sexual harassment case involves a man's inappropriate actions towards a woman, men are increasingly claiming they're also sexual harassment victims.

Sexual harassment claims filed by men with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have grown from 9% of all charges in fiscal 1992 to 15% in 2003, according to a USATODAY report. While many of those reported incidents involve male-on-male harassment, harassment of men by women is rarer, according to legal experts.

“There are more people complaining about it because there’s more attention to it,” asserted Caroline Wheeler, assistant general counsel with the EEOC, according to the USATODAY report. “It’s often the men who are not gay who pick on someone. They pick on men who seem effeminate or not aggressive enough.”

In recent years, major employers have faced lawsuits alleging same-sex harassment by men, with some settlements topping $1 million. Among the EEOC cases:

  • Last year, Babies R Us agreed to pay $205,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a male employee in New Jersey who said he was mocked and made the target of derogatory comments by other men.
  • Long Prairie Packing in Long Prairie, Minnesota, paid $1.9 million in 1999 to settle a class-action lawsuit by male meatpacking employees who said they were subjected to harassment and retaliation.
  • Burt Chevrolet and LGC Management, an auto chain in Colorado, paid $500,000 in 2000 to settle a claim by 10 former salesmen who said they were harassed by male managers. The salesmen said their genitals were grabbed, they were subjected to crude sex jokes and a manager exposed himself.

The issue has received more notice since the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that same-sex harassment by men may violate federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination. Since then, federal officials say they have filed more same-sex harassment lawsuits and seen more claims – more than 2,000 such EEOC claims a year – compared to fewer than 1,000 a year from fiscal 1990 to 1992.