Harassment-Free Workplace Series: A Focus on Sexual Harassment

Organizations must proactively create a culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment.

January 31, 2018

With increased attention on sexual harassment in the workplace, organizations have begun to reassess and revise their sexual harassment policies. Many HR professionals believe they have a clear picture of what is happening in their organization. However, much of the sexual harassment that employees experience or observe goes unreported. In addition, employees may be unaware of their organization’s sexual harassment policy, even though many organizations have policies in place.

To help organizations address the serious issue of workplace harassment, SHRM launched its year-long research initiative, the Harassment-Free Workplace Series. The first part of this series focuses on the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace. The infographics below provide insight on the perspectives of two groups surveyed as part of this series, HR professionals (SHRM members) and nonmanager employees.

Infographic 1: The Current State of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • HR professionals are optimistic that sexual harassment that does occur in their workplace is reported; however, according to nonmanager employees, many incidents go unreported.
  • 76% of nonmanager employees who experienced sexual harassment did not report it for many reasons, including fear of retaliation or a belief nothing would change.
  • To help create a harassment-free workplace, HR professionals will need to take additional preemptive actions, such as assessing the company culture to identify potential risks for sexual harassment.

Infographic 2: Sexual Harassment Prevention Policies and Training

  • Although a large majority of organizations have sexual harassment policies, approximately one out of five nonmanager employees are unsure if their organization has such a policy.
  • 32% of organizations have made changes to their sexual harassment prevention training in the last 12 months, and an additional 22% plan to make changes in 2018. 
  • As interactions among employees often extend beyond the office, HR professionals (55%) want more guidance on how to handle misconduct that occurs when employees are "off duty."

The infographics above are based on data collected in January 2018 from two confidential surveys in the SHRM Harassment-Free Workplace Series.

HR professionals (SHRM members) survey: The SHRM HR professionals’ data were collected using a web survey split into two to reduce respondent burden. SHRM sent each of the two surveys to a separate random sample of 6,000 SHRM members. Survey results are based on 524 and 554 eligible responses. Each survey yielded a response rate of 9%.

Nonmanager employee survey: The nonmanager employees’ data were collected by an external survey research organization through a web-enabled employee panel. Of the 4,671 nonmanager employees who were invited to participate, 1,223 eligible responses were received, yielding a response rate of 26%. All survey respondents were employed in nonmanager positions: nonmanager individual contributors/exempt (salaried) or nonmanager/nonexempt (hourly).