More than one-third (35 percent) of employees in the U.S. feel they’ve experienced workplace harassment, and half of them believe it was due to their gender.
A study released by specialty insurer Hiscox also found that 78 percent of those who were harassed said it was perpetrated by a male, and 73 percent said their harasser was in a senior position.
The 2018 Hiscox Workplace Harassment Study surveyed 500 U.S. adults (250 men and 250 women) employed full time.
“As the spotlight on workplace harassment intensifies, companies must be aware of the peril they face by ignoring this issue,” said Patrick Mitchell, Management Liability Product head at Hiscox USA. “Businesses of all sizes face steep financial, reputational and workforce consequences if they fail to take steps to prevent, detect and mitigate inappropriate behavior in the workplace.”
Among women, 41 percent reported they feel they’ve experienced workplace harassment.
While gender and seniority are key factors in workplace harassment, they’re not the only ones.
The data also showed that some harassment was committed by women against men, by members of the same sex, and by non-company employees such as customers or vendors.
All of these scenarios represent incidents in which a company could be subject to liability and financial loss if it fails to appropriately protect employees.
Despite more than 1 in 3 employees saying they felt harassed, 40 percent of those respondents said they never reported the harassment to company management or the police. The top reason cited for the failure to report was fear the allegations would create a hostile work environment (53 percent).
Of those who were harassed and did report it, 37 percent did not believe the incident was handled properly by their employer, and for women who reported harassment, this figure climbed to 49 percent.
It’s not just victims who don’t report harassment. Forty-five percent of all respondents said they have witnessed harassment in the workplace, 42 percent of whom did not report it.
Millennials are the most likely to say they were harassed (46 percent) compared to 35 percent of Gen Xers. Millennials were also more likely to report harassment to company management or the police (76 percent).
Companies of all sizes are subject to harassment claims. In fact, the percentage of respondents who indicated they had been harassed was the same (32 percent) at companies with fewer than 200 employees as it was at those with more than 1,000 employees.
However, how companies approach harassment may vary. Fifty-four percent of respondents at companies with fewer than 200 employees said their firm does not offer anti-harassment training compared to only 21 percent of those at firms with more than 1,000 employees.
Only 39 percent of those at smaller firms reported that their company had implemented new workplace harassment policies within the past 12 months versus 57 percent of those at larger firms.
Eighty-five percent of respondents said they believe people are more likely to report incidents on account of social movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said their companies had instituted new policies related to workplace harassment in the past 12 months.
According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), harassment based on gender/sex is the most common (50 percent of cases) form of reported workplace harassment, followed by racial/ethnic (17 percent), religion (15 percent), sexual orientation (13 percent) and age (13 percent).
According to the EEOC, from 2010 to 2017, employers paid out nearly $1 billion to settle harassment charges that have been filed with the EEOC. In cases of sexual harassment alone, employers paid $46.3 million to settle charges received by the EEOC in 2017, which represented 30 percent of the total charges received by EOC. These totals do not include any monetary payments received by plaintiffs as a result of litigation.
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.