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Survey: Workplace harassment often committed by senior colleagues

According to a survey of 250 men and 250 women employed full time in the U.S., more than a third of all respondents -- 35 percent -- said they had experienced some form of harassment in the workplace. Among women, the number was 41 percent. About half of those who had experienced harassment said it was gender-based.

Among the interesting findings of the survey, which was completed recently by the specialty insurer Hiscox, were details about the alleged harassers. Of those experiencing harassment, 78 percent said the harasser was male -- although harassment was reported by women against men and by persons of the same gender. Seventy-three percent of those experiencing harassment said the harasser was someone in a senior position. And, some harassers were third parties such as customers and vendors.

The survey also revealed some interesting data about reporting. Among those who said they had experienced harassment, 40 percent admitted they had never reported it to management or the authorities. The reason? According to 53 percent of those affected, they feared bringing the allegations forward would create a hostile work environment.

People who witness harassment are often silent about it, as well. The survey found that 45 percent of all respondents had witnessed harassment at work, but 42 percent of that group did not report it.

Of those who experienced harassment and did report it, a substantial number was unsatisfied with the outcome. Thirty-seven percent of those who made reports -- and 49 percent of women who made reports -- felt that the incident was not handled properly by their employer. This indicates that women are substantially more likely to be unsatisfied with how employers resolve harassment complaints.

Looked at generationally, the most likely group to experience harassment was Millennials. Forty-six percent of Millennials said they had experienced it, while only 35 percent of Generation Xers said they had. Millennials were also the most likely to report the situation to management or the authorities. Of those Millennials who said they had experienced harassment, 76 percent made a report.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents said that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have made it more likely that people will report harassment. And, 51 percent said that their organizations had instituted new anti-harassment policies in the past year.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is the most common type of harassment complaint the commission receives at 50 percent of all cases. It is followed by racial or ethnic harassment at 17 percent of cases, religious harassment at 15 percent, and harassment based on sexual orientation and age, each of which accounts for 13 percent of cases.

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