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Recent Allegations and Attention on Sexual Harassment Presents Challenges

me too sexual harassmentThere have been a lot of stories involving sexual harassment allegations against high profile men in the news lately. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement may have a lot to do with the increased allegations and increased attention focused on the issues of sexual harassment and assault.  

In order to understand the impact of allegations and increased focus on sexual harassment, the Pew Research Center conducted a nationally representative online survey of 6,251 adults from February 26 – March 11, 2018. The Pew Research Center states that the survey found "when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, more Americans think men getting away with it and female accusers not being believed are major problems than say the same about employers firing men before finding out all the facts or women making false accusations."  

While the survey considered factors such as the gender of the respondents and whether respondents are Republican or Democrat, below we will look at the responses from all respondents. We will look at the implications of increased focus on sexual harassment in the workplace and the views on how increased focus on sexual harassment may impact women's opportunities in the workplace.

We will conclude with recommendations from a compliance perspective for keeping interactions positive, productive, and free of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Implications of Increased Focus on Sexual Harassment

Many Americans see the increased focus on sexual harassment and assault as potentially creating challenges for men at work. The survey found:

  • 51% of all adults feel the increased focus on sexual harassment has made it harder men to know how to interact with women in the workplace;
  • 36 % say it has not made much difference; and
  • 12 % say it has made it easier.

Impact on Women's Career Opportunities

Not nearly as many Americans say the increased focus on sexual harassment will have an impact on women's career opportunities:

  • 28% of all adults feel there will be more opportunities for women in the workplace;  
  • 51% say there will not be much difference; and
  • 20 % say there will be few opportunities.

Americans who have received unwanted sexual advances or experienced sexual harassment

Another important finding of the survey revealed approximately 44% of Americans say they have received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature:

  • 59% of women say they have experienced this;
  • 27% of men say they have.

A closer look at these percentages found that:

  • 14% of women say they have ever received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in a professional or work setting;
  • 30 % of women say this happened outside a professional or work setting; and
  • 55 % say it happened in both.

Among men who have ever been sexually harassed:

  • 19% say they have ever received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in a professional or work setting;
  • 38% say this happened outside a professional or work setting; and
  • 42 % say it happened in both.

Recommendations from a compliance perspective  

This year, #MeToo and #TimesUp have led to companies reviewing policies and procedures to ensure there are equal opportunities and fair pay for men and women. In addition, companies are looking for ways to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment occurs, "when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."  

One way to prevent sexual harassment is to raise awareness in the workforce. This can be in the form of training, meetings and establishing a culture of respect for women and men in the workplace. To do so, it is important administrative staff and all employees adhere to the same standards. And if for some reason someone feels they have been harassed, they should feel comfortable coming forward with concerns without fear of retaliation.

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