- A recent survey by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) polled more than 15,000 employees, trainees, guest researchers and certain contractors about workplace harassment. Its data analysis is ongoing, but thus far, the NIH poll has revealed more than 20% of surveyed workers experienced sexual harassment during a 12-month period. Nearly half did not report the misconduct, NIH said.
- Eighteen percent experienced gender harassment and 10.3% reported unwanted sexual attention, NIH said. Bisexual workers were the most likely NIH workers of any sexual orientation to report they experienced some form of harassment, and 37.5% of them experienced gender harassment. In every category of harassment, women were more than twice as likely to be harassed as men, according to the report.
- For those that did report the harassment they experience, NIH found complaints were investigated 7.1% of the time, and 16.1% of respondents said they did not know if the complaint was investigated. Those who didn't report said they avoided it because they didn't think the incident was serious enough (77.4%), didn't think that anything helpful would come from reporting the harassment (38.3%), thought that their career might suffer for it (23.5%) or they would feel uncomfortable reporting (21.2%), NIH said.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement evidence suggests the greater awareness of this issue has driven an increase in sexual harassment claims. Few industries are immune to charges of worker harassment. Some in academia have called for systematic changes in the way employers train for and respond to claims, and other workers have called out their employers publicly for how harassment claims were handled.
Even as more workers report acceptance for LGBTQ colleagues, harassment for workers that identify as part of that group continues. Recently released research from the University of Michigan found that federal LGBTQ workers are more likely than their non-LGBTQ colleagues to seek employment elsewhere because of negative workplace experiences.
Because managers are sometimes the perpetrators, as the NIH survey revealed, HR pros play a necessary role in addressing allegations with a good-faith investigation, training for managers on how to conduct themselves and supporting workers and making themselves accessible for complaints. Many respondents to the survey said they didn't report harassment because they didn't believe anything would change, and those who did were often unaware of how their complaint was resolved. With this in mind, HR should inform all parties of the outcome before concluding the investigation and consider how to use the investigation to build trust with workers, experts at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management's Employment Law and Legislative Conference said.