Sexual Harassment Statistics: An Analysis of U.S. Workplaces

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is something that occurs in most, if not all, workplaces at some point, and if left unaddressed can escalate to sexual assault. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate comments or e-mails to stalking, and sexual assault can be anything from unwanted physical touch to rape.

Sexual harassment and assault can happen anywhere, but it is especially reprehensible in the workplace. It can be used as leverage by those in higher positions to coerce and exploit employees and can affect both men and women. The after-effects of sexual harassment can impact job performance, mental health, and feelings of safety and security. Below we will examine a large collection of sexual harassment statistics demonstrating the impact sexual harassment has had on workers of all genders across all industries.

Table of Contents

Americans’ Attitude Towards Sexual Harassment

A research study conducted by Pew Research Center examined Americans’ views on women’s rights and the role sexual harassment plays in hindering equality in the workplace. The data collected from this study helps us to see where Americans stand on the topic of equality and sexual harassment in the workplace. The study found that Americans’ view of sexual harassment varies greatly depending on gender and political views, as well as whether or not the person has experienced sexual harassment themselves.

Women’s Rights in Relation to Sexual Harassment

How are women’s rights and sexual harassment related? Well, many Americans see sexual harassment as an obstacle for women in gaining equal treatment in the workplace. While the Women’s Rights movement provided women with more freedom and power, it was not a total solution.

  • 57% of Americans say that the country has not gone far enough in giving women equal rights.
  • Of this group:
    • 77% believe sexual harassment to be a major obstacle to women gaining equal rights to their male counterparts.
    • 72% of men in this group see sexual harassment as a major obstacle, while 82% of women in this group see sexual harassment as a major obstacle.
    • 66% of the group that sees sexual harassment as a major obstacle are republicans, while 81% of this group are democrats.
  • 50% of Americans see men getting away with sexual harassment/assault in the workplace as a major problem, while 14% don’t see this as a problem at all.
  • 46% of Americans see women’s allegations of sexual harassment/assault not being believed as a major problem compared to 18% who don’t see this as a problem.
  • 34% of Americans think employers firing men accused of sexual harassment/assault is a major issue, whereas 26% believe it is not a problem.
  • 31% of Americans believe that women falsely claiming sexual harassment/assault is a major issue, versus 22% who don’t see it as a problem.

How Many Sexual Harassment Charges are Filed Every Year?

Data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates the enormity of sexual harassment claims in the workplace in America. We examined sexual harassment claims data from each state for the last 25 fiscal years.  From 1997 to 2021, there were 305,888 sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC in the United States. Over that time, annual sexual harassment charges in the US have decreased significantly. In 1997, total reported charges across the states totaled 16, 130 and dropped to 8,191 total in 2021, decreasing by over half.

EEOC Sexual Harassment Charges from 1997 – 2021

25 Years of EEOC Sexual Harassment Charges

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

While there are far fewer charges filed now than there were 25 years ago, sexual harassment still occurs. It is also important to keep in mind that the data provided is based on reported instances of sexual harassment, but not all incidents are reported. Many who experience sexual harassment or assault at work do not report their claims for fear of retaliation, or lack of knowledge or resources. The EEOC estimates that only about 6-13% of sexual harassment victims ever file a complaint. So numbers are likely significantly higher than the reported data available.

Which States Have the Most and Least Sexual Harassment Charges Filed with the EEOC?

Which States had the highest number of sexual harassment charges filed? Texas, Florida, and New York were numbers one, two, and three respectively. The map below shows the states with the highest share of total charges filed.

25 Years of EEOC Sexual Harassment Charge Data For Each State

*use the drop-down to view different five-year ranges

 

Source: EEOC Sexual Harassment Data

 

The top 10 states with the most reports in the last 25 years are:

  1. Texas – 29,282
  2. Florida – 23,292
  3. New York – 20,463
  4. Illinois – 17,958
  5. California – 12,613
  6. Pennsylvania – 12,601
  7. Georgia – 12,005
  8. Missouri – 10,292
  9. Indiana – 9,275
  10.  Arizona – 9,131

The 10 states with the least amount of sexual harassment claims in the last 25 years are:

  1. Vermont – 380
  2. West Virginia – 511
  3. North Dakota – 539
  4. South Dakota – 555
  5. Wyoming – 688
  6. Montana – 885
  7. Alaska – 896
  8. Rhode Island – 945
  9. Delaware – 1,271
  10.  Massachusetts – 1,298

Data Table: EEOC Sexual Harassment Charges from 1997-2021

 State 1997 – 2001 2002 – 2006 2007 – 2011 2012 – 2016 2017 – 2021 25 Year Total
Alabama 2,254 1,704 1,529 1,241 1,075 7,803
Alaska 205 182 173 199 137 896
Arizona 2,225 2,240 1,869 1,561 1,236 9,131
Arkansas 947 861 689 589 524 3,610
California 3,046 2,322 2,558 2,233 2,454 12,613
Colorado 1,591 1,199 1,249 1,060 1,072 6,171
Connecticut 1,059 920 766 661 804 4,210
Delaware 247 373 282 218 151 1,271
District Of Columbia 349 348 399 277 228 1,601
Florida 6,175 4,447 4,765 3,969 3,936 23,292
Georgia 2,915 2,623 2,300 2,019 2,148 12,005
Hawaii 415 370 367 246 290 1,688
Idaho 486 458 457 287 240 1,928
Illinois 4,653 4,020 3,545 2,813 2,927 17,958
Indiana 2,780 2,249 1,804 1,432 1,010 9,275
Iowa 1,136 967 877 792 745 4,517
Kansas 1,165 882 865 648 826 4,386
Kentucky 662 618 607 473 362 2,722
Louisiana 1,406 1,073 1,009 772 773 5,033
Maine 445 355 270 248 210 1,528
Maryland 1,428 1,060 1,112 1,012 917 5,529
Massachusetts 552 138 185 210 213 1,298
Michigan 995 1,329 1,448 1,241 1,152 6,165
Minnesota 1,141 1,002 685 488 409 3,725
Mississippi 1,002 657 683 744 627 3,713
Missouri 2,379 2,183 2,026 1,753 1,951 10,292
Montana 228 197 207 105 148 885
Nebraska 664 435 358 344 378 2,179
Nevada 1,100 1,211 1,181 1,046 1,060 5,598
New Hampshire 365 340 205 174 240 1,324
New Jersey 950 804 655 567 601 3,577
New Mexico 1,087 1,094 953 766 577 4,477
New York 4,367 3,741 4,399 3,960 3,996 20,463
North Carolina 1,939 1,608 1,879 1,464 1,411 8,301
North Dakota 83 102 107 146 101 539
Ohio 2,282 1,951 1,756 1,344 1,366 8,699
Oklahoma 1,059 1,056 1,117 810 522 4,564
Oregon 1,158 950 745 655 606 4,114
Pennsylvania 3,315 2,597 2,635 1,977 2,077 12,601
Rhode Island 268 215 176 149 137 945
South Carolina 1,349 1,212 1,028 906 1,007 5,502
South Dakota 139 146 115 83 72 555
Tennessee 2,090 2,106 1,954 1,514 1,384 9,048
Texas 7,838 6,358 5,836 4,799 4,451 29,282
Utah 779 800 625 597 405 3,206
Vermont 132 77 69 44 58 380
Virginia 1,390 1,198 1,358 1,217 1,045 6,208
Washington 1,172 967 773 677 685 4,274
West Virginia 195 114 104 58 40 511
Wisconsin 1,468 1,301 1,036 872 931 5,608
Wyoming 183 170 119 108 108 688

*Charge data is reported per fiscal year.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Many Americans experience sexual harassment in some form or another at their place of work. Not only does this affect one’s mental health, but it can also affect job performance and overall satisfaction in one’s job. Curiously enough, while most states require some form of sexual harassment training to be completed upon hire, this does not always deter it from happening.

Impact of Sexual Harassment on Work Performance

Sexual harassment can have devastating impacts on employees in the workplace. When a once enjoyable work environment no longer feels safe or comfortable, job performance and employee morale are bound to drop. Studies have shown that 56% of both men and women who have not experienced sexual harassment in the workplace are satisfied with their jobs, compared to only 39% of men and 48% of women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and still feel satisfied with their jobs.

Industries with the Most Sexual Harassment Claims

Restaurant and hospitality, health care, academia, and the military are among the top industries with the most reports of sexual harassment. Some industries not only deal with sexual harassment from internal aggressors (like co-workers or managers) but also from external offenders (like customers or patients).

Here are the top 20 industries by the percentage of sexual harassment charges filed from 2005 – 2015.  While it’s not a perfect measure, it does give us insight into the industries with the biggest problems. 

Sexual Harassment Charges Filed by Industry: 2005 – 2015

Rank Industry % of Charges
1 Accommodation and Food Services 14.23 percent
2 Retail Trade 13.44 percent
3 Manufacturing 11.72 percent
4 Health Care and Social Assistance 11.48 percent
5 Administrative/Support/Waste Management/Remediation 6.92 percent
6 Public Administration 6.48 percent
7 Professional/Scientific/Technical Services 5.73 percent
8 Transportation and Warehousing 4.94 percent
9 Finance and Insurance 3.98 percent
10 Educational Services 3.98 percent
11 Other Services 3.07 percent
12 Information 2.87 percent
13 Construction 2.52 percent
14 Wholesale Trade 2.27 percent
15 Real Estate Rental and Leasing 1.95 percent
16 Arts/Entertainment/Recreation 1.61 percent
17 Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing/Hunting0.83 percent 0.83 percent
18 Management of Companies and Enterprises 0.65 percent
19 Utilities 0.63 percent
20 Mining 0.61 percent

 

Let’s take a look at the various statistics on the occurrence of sexual harassment in these top four industries.

Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

  • The EEOC reports that almost 25% of all sexual harassment complaints come from the service sector, and a whopping 75% of these victims report experiencing some type of retaliation after reporting.
  • 14% of all the sexual harassment claims filed are made by women in the leisure and hospitality industries.
  • 90% of women who work in restaurants say they encounter being hit on, and half of these say it happens to them on a weekly basis.
  • 70% of men in the restaurant industry report experiencing some type of sexual harassment.
  • Tipped workers who earn a $2.13 subminimum wage are twice as likely to report sexual harassment as tipped workers who earn a guaranteed wage.
  •  34% of women who formerly worked as tipped workers quit their jobs because they were experiencing unwanted sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment in the Nursing Field

  • 86% of nurses in the US are female and 14% are male.
    • 69.9% of nurses are White, 11.4% are Black or African American, 8.8% are Hispanic or Latino, and 7.9% are Asian
  • 62% of female nurses and 51% of male nurses say they have experienced sexual harassment.
  • 60% of nurses say they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, however, only 27% of them reported it to their employer.
  • Only 17% of male nurses report sexual harassment to management, compared to 29% of female nurses that report sexual harassment.
  • 39% of nurses say they have witnessed a colleague being harassed at work.
  • 56% of nurses experience verbal harassment, 37% say they experience physical harassment, and 29% experience visual harassment (i.e., winking or other inappropriate gestures).
  • 58% of nurses have been harassed by a patient.
  • 26% of nurses are harassed by medical colleagues, and 24% are harassed by nursing colleagues.
  • 19% of nurses report harassment from patients’ families or friends.

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Academia

  • 49.8% of college professors are women, compared to 50.2% of male professors:
    • 69.4% of college professors are White, 10.9% are Asian, 9.8% are Hispanic or Latino and 7.2% are Black or African American
  • 58% of those in the academic workplace (students, faculty, and staff) experience sexual harassment.
  • 30-40% of students who experience sexual harassment have developed mental health problems.
  • One survey of college students found:
    • 12% of college students report harassment
    • 56% of students who were harassed didn’t report it because they didn’t see it as a “big deal”
    • 22% didn’t want to report and bring negative attention to themselves
    • 7% didn’t think reporting it would help
    • 7% were afraid of retaliation
    • 2% didn’t want the harasser to get in trouble
  • A study conducted by The Pennsylvania State University System revealed that:
    • 19% of undergraduate students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff
    • 20% of graduate students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff
  • 36% of medical students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff
    • 59% of sexual harassment that graduate students encounter involves sexually offensive language or gestures
    • 6.4% includes unwanted sexual attention
    • 4.7% involved unwanted physical contact or touching
    • 3.5% included subtle or explicit threats or bribes
  • Women, ages 18-24 who are enrolled in college, are 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other group of women.

Occurrence of Sexual Harassment in the Military

  • Women in the military are almost five times more likely to experience sexual assault than men in the military.
  • 41% of women military veterans and 4% of men military veterans report experiencing sexual harassment or assault.
  • Among active duty personnel:
    • 23% of women report sexual harassment and 6.1% report sexual assault
    • 4% of men report sexual harassment and 1.2% report sexual assault
  • 60% of sexual harassment violations are committed by a supervisor or leader.
  • ⅓ of those who were sexually assaulted say they were sexually harassed by the offender prior to the assault.
  • 52% of the women who reported a sexual assault experienced some type of retaliation, either social or professional.
  • 1.5% of men and 7% of women in the Navy experience sexual assault.
  • Almost 50% of women who were deployed to Afghanistan report having been sexually harassed, and about ¼ say they were sexually assaulted.

Sexual Harassment Based on Gender: Men are also Victims of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not limited to one gender; both men and women can experience sexual harassment on the job and outside of work. While women may be more susceptible to sexual harassment and assault at work, especially in fields dominated by their male counterparts, it is important to remember that men can also be victims. Let’s look at sexual harassment and assault statistics for both genders:

Statistics for Harassment of Women

  • 59% of women say they have been sexually harassed
    • 14% of these women say the harassment occurred at work
    • 30% say it occurred outside of work
    • 55% say it has occurred in both settings
  • 34% of female employees report having been sexually harassed at work
    • 13% say they were harassed by another woman, while 97% report being harassed by a man
    • 37% are Latina, 37% are White, 25% are Black, and 23% are Asian
    • 43% are LGBTQ
    • 72% report having been sexually harassed by someone senior to them, 49% by someone at the same level, and 16% by someone junior to them
  • When witnessing a colleague being sexually harassed by another colleague:
    • 31% of women speak up in the moment
    • 23% report the incident to HR

Sexual Harassment Statistics for Men

27 percent of men have been sexually harassed at work.

  • 27% of men say they have been sexually harassed
    • 19% of these men say the harassment occurred at work
    • 38% say it occurred outside of work
    • 42% say it has occurred in both settings
  • 13% of male employees report sexual harassment at work
    • 68% were harassed by women, while 57% reported being harassed by another man
    • 21% are Black, 13% are Asian, 13% are Latino, and 13% are White
    • 23% are LGBTQ
    • 59% were sexually harassed by someone senior to them, 55% by someone at the same level, and 22% by someone junior to them
  • When witnessing a colleague being sexually harassed by another colleague:
    • 27% of men speak up in the moment
    • 30% report the incident to HR

How Often Does Sexual Assault Occur?

When sexual harassment is not taken seriously or dealt with properly it can escalate to sexual assault. Sexual assault can be seen as a more aggressive, physical manifestation of sexual harassment. It is estimated that:

  • Every 68 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted.
  • On average, there are 463,634 sexual assaults yearly in the US.

Statistics for Sexual Assault on Women at Work

  • 7% of women report having been sexually assaulted at work
    • 19% were assaulted by another woman, while 94% were assaulted by a man
    • 7% are Black, 6% are Asian, 6% are Latina, and 6% are White
    • 10% are LGBTQ
    • 52% report being sexually assaulted by someone senior to them, 50% by someone at the same level as them, and 15% by someone junior to them
  • 1 in every 6 women has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24, who are not enrolled in college, are 4 times as likely to be sexually assaulted than women in general.

Sexual Assault on Men at Work

  • 5% report having been sexually assaulted while working
    • 76% were assaulted by women while 38% reported being assaulted by another man
    • 7% are Latino, 7% are Black, 6% are Asian, and 4% are White
    • 9% are LGBTQ
    • 45% report being sexually assaulted by someone at the same level as them, 44% by someone senior to them, and 22% by someone junior to them
  • One in eight men has suffered sexual harassment, and one in 20 has suffered assault. Men are twice as likely to report being assaulted by a woman than they are to report being assaulted by a man (76% likely compared to 38% likely)

Sexual Harassment Resources

If you have experienced or are actively experiencing sexual harassment, you are not alone and you can find help. If it is not safe or you do not feel comfortable reporting harassment to your manager or HR, here is a list of resources that can help you.

The attorneys at Sessions & Kimball LLP have extensive experience fighting for compensation for those you have been sexually harassed at work. We will fight for the best outcome for you so that you can focus on your needs. You can count on the attorneys at Session & Kimball LLC to handle your case professionally and efficiently. Contact us today, online or at (800) 774-7494 for a free consultation.

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