- One in ten New Yorkers say someone in a position of authority at work has attempted to trade job benefits for sexual favors, according to a new report from the Worker Institute at Cornell University.
- The survey of 800 randomly selected New York State residents found that 10.9 percent of respondents — 12.2 percent of women and 9.5 percent of men — had experienced quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment at some point in their careers. Additionally, the harassment is racially disproportionate: 13.9% of people of color and those of Hispanic origin said they had experienced quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment, as compared to only 8.5% of non-Hispanic whites.
- Overall, 31.1% of female respondents and 18.9% of male respondents reported having experienced either quid pro quo sexual harassment or sexual harassment that created a hostile work environment. This works out to nearly 4 million people statewide. Given the prevalence of the problem, the report authors recommend treating it as a widespread structural issue rather than simply "a few bad apples" and combating it with prevention-focused, survivor-driven approaches that go beyond what the law requires.
"Quid pro quo" harassment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), occurs when a person's submission to, or rejection of, harassing conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that person going forward. It is illegal, as is sexual harassment that is extreme or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.
The Cornell report authors recommend cultural changes that engage men and women as allies, and other experts have taken this stance as well. Jonathan Segal of Duane Morris said at a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference that "[t]he challenges we have are too great for half the population alone to solve them." Segal also recommended that HR thank individuals for coming forward with complaints rather than discouraging or dismissing them.
#MeToo and recent EEOC enforcement priorities have encouraged employers to take a hard look at their sexual harassment prevention and remediation efforts. Regular compliance training for supervisors and front-line managers is a crucial part of these efforts, as their actions and inactions often trigger employee allegations.
Experts also recommend that employers establish, distribute and consistently enforce a strong anti-harassment policy, as well as a policy for receiving and investigating complaints.