Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem for most organizations and has been for decades, despite the attention given to the issue by employers and government organizations. Employers are subject to significant risk for not taking steps to ensure a harassment-free environment for employees. The following sexual harassment statistics and facts illustrate the bottom-line impact turning a blind eye can have on your business.

General Sexual Harassment Facts and Statistics

In 2019, employers paid a record $68.2 million to settle claims of harassment made through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The issue hasn’t subsided during the pandemic, even as many employees have been working remotely or in hybrid work settings. In fact, at an EEOC hearing in 2021, one speaker reported that the pandemic created new opportunities for both sexual harassment and retaliation against those reporting harassment.

The EEOC Definition of Sexual Harassment

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advancements, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” All, of course, can occur online. In fact, according to Pew Research: “Roughly four-in-ten Americans have experienced online harassment.”

Here are some additional facts about sexual harassment:

  • Sexual harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • It is pervasive and can affect both men and women
  • It can be perpetuated by the same or opposite sex
  • It can affect people of all ages

Common Forms of Sexual Harassment

Much of the determination of sexual harassment lies with the individual who feels they’ve been harassed, but some common forms of harassment include:

  • Verbal harassment, like making derogatory comments, using slurs, or telling inappropriate jobs
  • Verbal sexual language, jokes, advances, or propositions
  • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature
  • Touching, assault, impeding, or blocking movement
  • Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances

Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace — and one which is free from sexual harassment.

How Much Sexual Harassment Occurs Every Year

It’s difficult to definitively state how much harassment occurs every year because the data available relates to reported harassment. But it’s likely much sexual harassment goes unreported for various reasons. A major reason for this is fear of retaliation.

Sexual harassment claims declined from 7,514 claims in 2019 to 6,587 in 2020 — although it’s unclear what caused this drop.

Women are more likely to be the victims of sexual harassment than men, according to research by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), now COQUAL. It found that “more than one in three women and more than one in ten men have been victims of sexual harassment (34 percent vs. 13 percent).” Of the men who had been harassed, more than half — 57 percent — were harassed by other men. Of the women who were harassed, 72 percent were harassed by someone more senior than them.

There are also other demographics that impact the prevalence of sexual harassment and its effect on the workplace.

Activate Your Workforce to Prevent Harassment

Educate your employees on strategies to intervene when they see inappropriate behavior at work.

Sexual Harassment Statistics by Race

According to COQUAL research, “Latinas and white women are the most likely to have experienced sexual harassment at work (37 percent for both groups).

Among Black women, 23 percent were harassed by other women, compared to one to zero percent of white women. Asian women were more likely to have been harassed by colleagues in a lower-level job than theirs (31 percent), “compared to 15 percent of white women, 11 percent of Latinas, and 22 percent of Black women.”

Geography also impacts sexual harassment statistics.

Sexual Harassment Statistics by State

Since 1997, the EEOC has reported on rates of sexual harassment charges by state and gender. Filings, as we indicated, aren’t representative of actual levels of harassment and various factors may impact an individual’s decision to file a claim.

For instance, writing for Forbes, attorney Tom Spiggle revealed, “the five worst states for filing sexual harassment and discrimination claims” to be:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • Missouri

Regardless of which state or states your company operates in, given these statistics, it’s important for employers to take a proactive role in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Implementing sexual harassment prevention training at your workplace, which is a requirement in many states, is an important step in raising awareness and minimizing incidents of it.

Mandatory Harassment Training

Several states have enacted mandatory sexual harassment training that businesses must follow.

Keep in mind, though, that while important, mandatory training isn’t enough. Creating a safe and respectful workforce culture free of sexual — and other forms of — harassment and discrimination, is an ongoing process that requires concerted and aligned attention at all levels of the organization.

One of the most important things an organization can do to help build a culture of safety that’s free from sexual harassment is to enlist its employees in these efforts by positioning them as active advocates or bystanders — not as perpetrators or victims.

Online workplace harassment training shows your employees how they can effectively serve in a bystander role. Offering positive reinforcement for employee efforts can help your company build a safe, respectful work environment for all.

Harassment Prevention Training

EVERFI designs harassment and discrimination prevention courses to protect your people and your bottom line.