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Sexual harassment on the job is not just a Hollywood issue

While the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein dominates media headlines, for many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, it's just another day in the office.

That such egregious behaviors are allowed to go unreported is possible because of the shame and fear of the victims and the network that protects these predatory industry leaders.

Why are some industries seemingly plagued by these lewd predators and others escape seemingly unscathed?

On-the-job sexual harassment is not specific to certain fields, although male-dominated industries like construction and the building trades report higher levels of the aberrant behaviors, says the vice president and general counsel for the National Women's Law Center.

But the service industry is also plagued by higher than average incidents of employee harassment. The industry is buoyed by the approval of customers, and this can affect the way managers interact with their subordinates.

It seems that any industries where there is a great disparity of power between the employees and their supervisors are prone to allegations of harassment. Women working for low wages cleaning hotel rooms or picking crops on a farm are especially vulnerable to abuse from higher-ups because they lack bargaining power to fight their ill-treatment.

According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), almost a third of complaints from a single year — roughly 30,000 — included harassment allegations. However, the commission concedes that its numbers are too low to accurately reflect the scope of the problem. In fact, it's estimated that three-quarters of all workplace harassment allegations never get reported at all.

Last year, the EEOC released results from their comprehensive study of harassment in the American workplace. The results indicate that approximately 25 percent to 85 percent of females workers report at least one incident of sexual harassment on the job.

Work sites that are staffed by union members see fewer incidents of sexual harassment. This may be tied to the higher wages union members earn as well as the resources dedicated to protecting them from these hostile environments.

Retaliation for reporting

Perhaps the most worrisome of all is not that the harassment occurred but that three-quarters of the victims who reported these incidents experienced some form of retaliation for speaking out about the abuse they suffered.

A California attorney who handles sexual harassment cases is one source of guidance in these circumstances.

Source: Vox, "Study finds 75 percent of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up," Tara Golshan, Oct. 15, 2017

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