In a preface to the report, EEOC co-chairs wrote the number of harassment complaints the team receives every year is still striking 30 years after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized sexual harassment as a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“We present this report with a firm, and confirmed, belief that too many people in too many workplaces find themselves in unacceptably harassing situations when they are simply trying to do their jobs,” the co-chairs wrote.
The EEOC selected a 16-member team from a variety of disciplines and regions to be part of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, to conduct an 18-month study in which they heard from more than 30 witnesses and received numerous public comments.
Roughly three out of four victims of harassment spoke to a supervisor or representative about the harassment.
It’s also common, the report found, for those who experience harassment to either ignore and avoid the harasser, downplay the situation, try to forget the harassment or endure it.
“Employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or to file a complaint because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation,” report authors wrote.
Anywhere between 25-85 percent of women reported sex-based harassment.
Using testimonies and academic articles, analysts dug deeper into the widely divergent numbers.
They found that when asked if they experienced “sexual harassment” without defining the term, 25 percent of women reported they had.
The rate grew to 40 percent when employees were asked about specific unwanted sex-based behaviors.
And when respondents were asked similar questions in surveys using convenience samples, or people who are easy to reach, such as student volunteers, the incidence rate rose to 75 percent, researchers found.
“Based on this consistent result, researchers have concluded that many individuals do not label certain forms of unwelcome sexually based behaviors – even if they view them as problematic or offensive – as ‘sexual harassment,’” authors wrote.
More men are reporting workplace sexual assault.
According to the EEOC, reports of men experiencing workplace sexual assault have nearly doubled between 1990 and 2009 and now account for 8 to 16 percent of all claims.