In order to foster inclusive and respectful workplaces, understanding the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment is crucial. Additionally, for victims of such harassment, knowledge of the prevalence can encourage them to get help. Sexual harassment remains a pervasive issue that affects individuals across various industries, transcending geographical boundaries and organizational structures. In this blog post, we delve into the stark reality of workplace sexual harassment, shedding light on the latest statistics to show the urgency needed in encouraging victims to seek legal assistance despite the stigma they may feel.
The Scope of the Issue
Workplace sexual harassment can take various forms, including unwelcome advances, offensive comments, and discriminatory behavior based on gender. According to recent studies, a staggering percentage of individuals have encountered some form of sexual harassment during their professional journey. It is crucial to recognize that these statistics may represent only a fraction of the actual incidents, as many cases go unreported due to fear of retaliation or a lack of confidence in the reporting mechanisms.
Sexual harassment can target any demographic, regardless of age, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or industry.
Studies indicate that a significant percentage of employees, both women and men, have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. According to a survey by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), nearly 38 percent of women and 17 percent of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. (Kearl, Johns, & Raj, 2019)
Sixty percent of women say they have experienced unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, sexually crude conduct, or sexist comments in the workplace (Feldblum & Lipnic, 2016).
Additionally, in the LGBTQ community, women are more than twice as likely to report unwanted touching (35 percent of women compared to 16 percent of men); almost twice as likely to report experiencing sexual assault; and more than one fifth (21 percent) of women compared to 12 percent of men are likely to experience serious sexual assault or rape. Around one in eight women (12 percent) compared to one in fourteen (7 percent) of men. (TUC (2017) The Cost of Being Out at Work: LGBT+ workers’ experiences of harassment and discrimination)
According to the EEOC, California ranks number five in the country for the highest amount of workplace sexual harassment claims in the country in the past 25 years.
The majority of sexual harassment cases go unreported. Over 85 percent of people who experience sexual harassment never file a formal legal charge, and approximately 70 percent of employees never even complain internally (Feldblum & Lipnic, 2016).
Impact on Careers
One fear many victims share is that sexual harassment can have severe consequences on their careers. Many individuals who experience harassment report negative effects on their mental health, job satisfaction, and professional advancement. Some studies suggest that victims often change jobs or even leave their chosen careers to escape the hostile work environment.
By accessing legal assistance in their cases, victims can reduce the negative effects of the harassment on their careers and ensure they are compensated for hardship already suffered.
Between 2018 and 2021, the five most common issues to be charged concurrently with a workplace sexual harassment charge include:
Non-sexual harassment: 33.2%
Terms and conditions: 32.5%
Constructive discharge: 20.9%
(Holman Schiavone, LLC)
Despite the prevalence of sexual harassment, legal actions are not always pursued. According to the EEOC, in the United States only a fraction of reported cases result in formal charges or lawsuits. This raises questions about the effectiveness of current legal frameworks in addressing and preventing workplace harassment.
According to a study conducted on 50 recent workplace harassment cases, the average settlement for those who have been sexually harassed is $53,000. However, those claimants who took their case to court received far larger awards, at an average of more than $217,000. This disparity indicates two possible scenarios. One is that claimants who settle are not settling for enough and should push for higher compensation. The other is that only cases of severe harassment make it to court.
Federal law caps the amount of money that can be awarded for punitive and compensatory damages based on how many employees the company has:
The limit is $50,000 for employers with 15-100 employees
The limit is $100,000 for employers with 101-200 employees
The limit is $200,000 for employers with 201-500 employees
The limit is $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees
(Holman Schiavone, LLC)
In 2019, employers paid a record $68.2 million to settle claims of harassment made through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This further illustrates the potential victims have to be made whole again after an occurrence of harassment in the workplace.
The prevalence of workplace sexual harassment is a sobering reality that demands our attention. By raising awareness, promoting reporting mechanisms, and fostering a culture of respect, we can collectively work towards eradicating workplace sexual harassment and building workplaces where every individual can thrive without fear or discrimination. Essential to this movement is the empowerment of victims to report, get represented, and get compensated – both providing relief for the victim and incentive for companies to adopt more protective policies.