- In the previous three years, American women were subject to significantly less sexual harassment at work, but were subject to increasing levels of gender harassment, according to new studies from University of Colorado Boulder's Leeds School of Business. The study defined sexual harassment as overt unwanted sexual attention, including staring, leering and attempts at unwelcome touching. The study defined gender harassment as coworkers or supervisors making sexist remarks or displaying sexist material.
- The results found sexual harassment's impact on women's self-esteem and self-doubt declined over the study's time period, from September 2016 to September 2018. Interviews suggested that when women knew others who had experienced similar harassment, their comradery helped them feel less ashamed and more supported.
- While women reported feeling more empowered by other women who shared their stories as a part of the #MeToo movement, the research suggested "gender harassment is increasing as a backlash to anti-sexual harassment movements."
It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because of that person's sex, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
The EEOC notes that harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex: "It is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general." This would seem to fall into the "gender harassment" category discussed in the study.
In the #MeToo era, sexual harassment complaints are on the rise, and employers are increasingly taking proactive steps to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace. Because many employees and witnesses feel reluctant to report harassment and discrimination, enhanced reporting mechanisms may help.
McDonald's, for example, recently launched an anonymous hotline for complaint reporting following allegations of sexual harassment. Similarly, a Florida restaurant that paid $80,000 to settle harassment allegations by a former bartender hired an outside vendor to manage an employee complaint hotline for harassment and discrimination complaints.
Anti-harassment training is an essential weapon in an employer's arsenal, and it's legally required in some locations. The restaurant industry, in particular, has been stepping up its response after allegations that the culture is pervasively problematic.