How Often Does Sexual Harassment Occur in the Workplace

Approximately 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each year. Remember, many more actions are brought privately by sexual harassment attorneys. According to the EEOC, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years. Currently, approximately 11% of claims involve men filing against female supervisors.

A telephone poll conducted by Louis Harris and Associates on 782 workers revealed:
• 31% of the female workers claimed to have been harassed at work
• 7% of the male workers claimed to have been harassed at work
• 62% of targets took no action
• 100% of women claimed the harasser was a man
• 59% of men claimed the harasser was a woman
• 41% of men claimed the harasser was another man

Of the women who had been harassed:
• 43% were harassed by a supervisor
• 27% were harassed by an employee senior to them
• 19% were harassed by a coworker at their level
• 8% were harassed by a junior employee

Studies suggest anywhere between 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a survey of 9,000 clerical and professional women, 92% of respondents experienced overt physical harassment, sexual remarks and leering, with the majority regarding this behavior as a serious problem at work.  Nearly 50% said they or someone they knew had quit or been fired because of sexual harassment, and 75% believed that if they complained to a supervisor, nothing would be done.  These statistics are incredibly alarming. Being that this unconscionable behavior is still so rampant in the workplace, laws should seek to protect targeted individuals rather than protect employers from their non-delegable duty to protect their employees from a hostile environment.

Unfortunately, Federal law seeks to shield employers from liability based on grossly negligent actions perpetrated by supervisors toward lower level employees. Specifically, this affirmative defense to sexual harassment liability under Title VII is available to employers when an employee claims harassment by a supervisor and the employer takes no tangible employment action against the employee and exercises reasonable care to prevent and correct the harassing behavior, and the employee fails to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Luckily, New York City’s Human Rights Law is more evolved, disavowing the Federal affirmative defense. The New York City Human Rights Law imposes strict liability on an employer for a supervisory employee’s sexual harassment.

If you believe that you or your family member was a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.