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When Immersed in Sexual Harassment, Workers Can't Identify It


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Prior work experience in highly sexually harassing industries makes employees less likely to identify violations.

Credit: Getty Images

People who work in industries with high levels of sexual harassment — including information, retail, manufacturing, and hospitality — have a harder time identifying inappropriate workplace behavior, with only 57% of those surveyed identifying quid pro quo sexual harassment, according to published research from Cornell University.

"It's very likely an individual's understanding of what 'counts' as sexual harassment is shaped by their workplace experiences," says lead author Phoebe Strom. Taking the workplace out of the equation is "a huge oversight," she says.

Employees who work in industries that experience a large amount of sexual harassment are far less likely to identify clear violations, the researchers conclude. The study shows that the negative effects of an industry with a high level of harassment were diminished for participants who had strong HR policies at their workplaces.

From Cornell University
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