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Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t just perpetrated by co-workers or the b
Source: Kari Paul




When people think of sexual harassment, often they think of high-profile cases between employees and their colleagues or superiors. But a new study shows the effects of harassment of employees by clients and customers can be just as damaging.

Employees who had been harassed by clients or customers scored 2.05 points higher than those who had not on the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), a self-report mood questionnaire that generates a diagnosis and scale of depression. Effects of being harassed by a colleague, supervisor, or subordinate were even more acute: they scored 2.45 points higher compared to employees who had experienced sexual harassment by clients or customers.

Harassment from clients can also be more common, especially in service-industry jobs. Of 7,603 Danish employees who participated in the survey, published Monday in the open access journal “BMC Public Health,” 2.4% were exposed to sexual harassment by clients or customers and 1% were harassed by colleagues.

In some professions such as care work or social work, many workers may believe dealing with sexual harassment by clients or customers is “part of the job,” said Dr. Ida Elisabeth Huitfeldt Madsen, a senior researcher at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Denmark and author on the report..
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The study comes as high profile sexual harassment allegations continue .Uber’s former chief executive officer Travis Kalanick resigned in June after an investigation into the company’s corporate culture. Last February, a former engineer at Uber wrote a blog post about sexual harassment and other workplace problems she experienced at the company. (At the time, Kalanick said in a statement that her description was “abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.”)
The term “sexual harassment” didn’t become widely used to describe this kind of workplace behavior until 1975, when Carmita Wood, a laboratory worker, quit her job after alleging her supervisor made advances, but she was denied worker compensation. Another landmark case in 1986 led the U.S. Supreme Court to finally recognize sexual harassment as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If a company knows an employee is being sexually harassed and does nothing about it that it is engaging in its own form of harassment by creating a hostile work environment, said Jennifer Drobac, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

But despite women’s advances in the workplace, the number of sexual harassment suits has remained constant since the 1990s. Drobac said many people are still hesitant to report sexual harassment, whether because they are afraid or because they simply do not recognize it.

Many of her clients initially didn’t even realize how badly they’d been sexually harassed because they’d been working in such a toxic environment for years “and they didn’t really know what a normal healthy environment was like anymore,” she said.

Indeed, the study’s authors note the number of individuals who experienced harassment was relatively low, but reports from men and other self-reported data could cause the numbers to be under-reported.



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