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Despite Progress, Harassment Remains a Workplace Challenge

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SHRM has partnered with Security Management Magazine to bring you relevant articles on key workplace topics and strategies. 

Three years after the #MeToo movement sparked a cultural reckoning around sexual harassment and assault, one-quarter of working Americans—including 29 percent of working women—say they are more likely to report an incident of sexual misconduct in the workplace than ever before, according to an independent CBS News poll. More than half of young men surveyed said that #MeToo has made them rethink some of the ways men behave toward women.

Despite this progress, work remains to be done, particularly by employers. According to a report from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), Coming Forward: Key Trends and Data from the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, nearly two in three people reported the harassment or assault they experienced to their employer, and 28 percent of people surveyed said the harassment they experienced was not an isolated incident.

The report found that more than 70 percent of people who experienced workplace sex harassment and sought help from the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund faced retaliation of some kind. Of those who experienced retaliation, 36 percent reported being fired, while 19 percent reported poor treatment or heightened scrutiny in the workplace.

Of the workers who reported harassment, nearly 30 percent said nothing was done about it; 37 percent said nothing happened to the perpetrator.

Discrimination and harassment frequently go hand-in-hand. The report found that 18 percent of people experienced discrimination or harassment based on sex or other aspects of their identities, including national origin, race, or disability.

A 2020 poll from the Gallup Center on Black Voices found that about one in four Black and Hispanic employees in the United States report having been discriminated against at work in the past year. For comparison, 15 percent of white employees reported discrimination.

Age is a significant factor in discrimination rates, the poll found—Black workers younger than 40 are almost twice as likely as Black workers aged 40 or older to report having experienced discriminations at work. The vast majority (75 percent) of discrimination reported by Black employees was based on their race or ethnicity.

Workplace harassment and assault have long-term consequences. The NWLC report found that 22 percent of people said their experience of workplace sexual harassment negatively impacted their economic or financial well-being, and 19 percent said that harassment has had a damaging impact on their mental health.

The report authors added, "there is a great deal of work left to do, especially to stop retaliation, ensure appropriate employer responses and address the effects of harassment on the mental health and economic well-being of workers so that everyone can experience a safe and respectful workplace."

Claire Meyer is managing editor at Security Management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or contact her at

This article is adapted from Security Management Magazine with permission from ASIS © 2021. All rights reserved. 


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