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Few women report sexual harassment, EEOC says

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a third of female workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. experienced sexual harassment on the job in 2016. Furthermore, 75 percent of women said they did not talk to a manager or union representative about the harassment. Professional retaliation, not being believed or being blamed for the incident were all reasons they cited for not reporting the harassment. Gender equality is an issue as well, and women report being paid and promoted less than men.

Senior leadership can create a culture that reduces the likelihood of sexual harassment and discrimination. One solution for companies is to state outright that neither will be tolerated. That must be backed up by action that addresses reports quickly and may include termination for employees who sexually harasses others. This means holding people accountable as well as looking at how many women are recruited into the company and whether they stay.

Male employees can also participate in changing the work culture. They can speak up when someone makes a sexual comment about a woman instead of ignoring instances of harassment and discrimination.

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination suits can be costly for companies. Qualcomm, a California-based tech company, agreed to a payment of $19 million in a federal class action gender discrimination lawsuit in 2016.

A worker who feels they may be facing sexual harassment might want to talk to an attorney. Harassment may be subtle and difficult to pin down or it may be overt, such as threatening a person with job loss if sexual advances are rejected.

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