How to respond to sexual harassment at work

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Survey finds 72% of employees who experience unwanted advances do not report the incidents

sexual harassment at work

As accusations of sexual misconduct at work continue to rise, it’s not surprising CareerBuilder.com, an employment services website, commissioned a survey on the topic.

The survey, conducted online in late 2017, found that the majority of those who said they had been sexually harassed—72%—did not report the incident. In addition, more than half (54%) did not confront the person who harassed them.

For the 46% who did confront the person who harassed them, 13% said the situation remained the same and 9% said it got worse.

Of those who reported sexual harassment, 15% told the person’s boss or someone higher up in the company, 11% reported it to human resources and 3% told the legal department.

Reasons people gave for not reporting sexual harassment included not wanting to be labeled a troublemaker (40%), saying it would be their word against the other person’s (22%) or fear they would lose their job (18%).

While many stayed in their jobs, 13% said they left their job because of harassment.

Employees who said they had been sexually harassed said those responsible held the following positions:

  • Peer: 60%
  • Manager or supervisor: 36%
  • Client: 9%
  • Senior management: 8%
  • Vendor: 5%
  • Direct report: 3%

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, offered these tips for those who have been sexually harassed at work:

  • Know your rights. Learn what kind of policy your company has in place. It usually will include an employee’s rights and protections against retaliation. Even if a policy doesn’t exist, employees are protected from sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Write it down. Include as many specifics as possible, such as how the incident has affected your ability to do your job.
  • Voice your concern. “If you feel comfortable speaking to the person directly, politely but firmly tell them to stop, being specific about what behaviors make you uncomfortable,” Haefner says. If you don’t want to speak to the person, you could send a letter.
  • Tell someone. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing the person directly, report it to your supervisor, the harasser’s supervisor or the human resources department.

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