One in Four Face Sexual Harassment in Boston Workplaces, Poll Finds

A recent poll by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 1 in 4 American women report that they have been sexually harassed on the job, Forbes reports.

Allegations of sexual harassment in Boston can vary widely. They can be as simple as sexual comments, or comments designed to hurt a person’s reputation, or those regarding their appearance or weight. Sexual harassment can be as obvious as asking for sexual favors, inappropriate touching or other openly suggestive sexual situations.
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Either way, it is unlawful. According to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, sexual harassment is labeled as quid pro quo harassment or hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment generally means that a person in power asks for sexual favors in order to offer a promotion, hire someone or provide a perk for their career.

Hostile work environment sexual harassment means that the atmosphere is uncomfortable and there are unwelcome sexual advances or banter involved.

And as Boston employment lawyers well know, this isn’t something that is applicable only to women. While people generally associate sexual harassment with a female victim, it can happen to men as well. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces employment law issues, 16.4 percent of sexual harassment claims made in 2010 were by men. That is the highest ever and up from 11.6 percent in 1997.

One case of sexual harassment in the news is that of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who has faced a firestorm in recent weeks after news reports surfaced that he had been accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s when he was in charge of the National Restaurant Association. Initial reports showed that two women made allegations — two more have come forward since the initial allegations surfaced.

The allegations center around him making inappropriate comments and implying that he was asking for sexual favors in order to provide jobs at the organization. He has denied all allegations, but the scandal has cost him in the polls.

The Forbes article reports that many American women feel they have faced sexual harassment, yet that has been the case for decades. There were more than 11,000 claims of sexual harassment nationwide in 2010, the EEOC reports, with cases settling for $48.4 million.

The problem may be that only 64 percent of people see harassment as a serious workplace challenge, a drop from 88 percent in 1992. This may explain why workplaces have cultures where sexual harassment is tolerated. In the 1990s, sexual harassment claims were higher than they are today.

But the article goes on to state that many women may not report the harassment because they fear it could hurt their standing in the company and that of other women. They sometimes get pressure from female co-workers not to report it because it could look bad for everyone. There’s also a mantra, Forbes claims, that businesswomen feel they should be “tough” enough to handle discrimination.

This is a misnomer, however. No one should have to endure harassment at work. It adds stress, makes work uncomfortable and ruins the atmosphere. Not reporting it simply allows it to continue without consequence. If bosses are openly harassing employees and no one steps up and stops it. it will continue until someone does. Being the victim of sexual harassment and not reporting it opens up co-workers to endure it in the future.

If you need to speak to an employment attorney in Belmont, Boston or elsewhere in Massachusetts, contact The Brown Law Firm, LLC, for a free and confidential consultation. Call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Entries:

Even Non-Sexual Comments Can Be Sexual Harassment: January 4, 2011
Additional Resources:

Sexual Harassment Still Happens. So What?, by J. Maureen Henderson, Forbes.com
Herman Cain’s support tumbles in polls amid claims of sexual harassment, by Thomas M. Defrank, New York Daily News

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Boston Bar Assosiation