- Nearly 83% of women and 65% of men working at University of Michigan Medical School said they experienced sexual harassment by staff, students and faculty during the previous year, according to a study published in the Journal of Women's Health.
- Survey participants also reported sexual harassment stemming from their dealings with patients or patients' families. Nearly two-thirds of the women and 44% of the men said they were subjected to sexual harassment from those who were in their care or their relatives in the past year.
- The study also found that sexual harassment had a negative effect on physician mental health, job satisfaction, sense of safety at work and intention to look for new work.
The study's researchers noted that "it is possible that this institution is an outlier; however, it is, on the whole, not remarkably different from many other large academic medical schools and teaching hospitals, so we anticipate that the rates of harassment in other institutions will mirror those we found."
The results may not come as a shock, considering the research and testimonies prompted by the #MeToo movement. HR pros at hospitals like the one in the survey may decide to take a cue from other institutions and address the findings of this survey. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently stepped up its sexual harassment training for employees and students after the 2019 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct found that 1 in 9 MIT students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact and 1 in 6 experienced sexual harassment.
HR departments can play a significant role in ridding the workplace of sexual misconduct. But a study by pelotonRPM found that many managers and other leaders are ill-prepared to deal with harassment claims, bullying, discrimination and other misconduct. For example, they often don't know what follow-up questions to ask workers who file complaints and aren't always aware of or don't always communicate an employer's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. HR can help managers and themselves become better equipped to handle misconduct with thorough training.
When provided with the right tools to handle sexual harassment and other misconduct issues, HR can be instrumental in creating and enforcing appropriate policies, holding wrongdoers accountable and promptly investigating all complaints.
HR also can work to demonstrate to senior management that abusive behaviors have steep human and financial costs. As the #MedToo study researchers noted, "sexual harassment lawsuits pose both a financial and reputational burden on institutions."