Sexual harassment on the job still carries large impact, study says

Researchers have shown through a new study that though there has been near 30% decline in complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace, it is still a continuing, chronic occupational health problem in the workplace.

Researchers decided to carry out a review of a study published in a 1998 on sexual harassment in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. The University of Texas at Arlington researchers say that society and the workplace continue to struggle with the very definition of sexual harassment, which limits the ability to develop effective strategies in the workplace.

The team say that sexual harassment impacts the victim, the aggressor, bystanders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders in terms of tarnished reputations and trust, disengaged employees, decreased commitment, turnover, depression, stress, eating and other health disorders and in extreme cases bodily harm, even death. They say that recent publicity regarding sexual harassment is a signal of the beginning of a revolutionary change in the workplace demanding a different type of training.

Researchers believe that there is a real need from a public heath perspective to know more about the aggressors’ use of power in sexual harassment cases and that if the workplace is equipped with this information, surveillance indicators and systems can be put into place to address this preventable occupational health problem.

Organizations need to be proactive in establishing policies prohibiting sexual harassment, raising employee awareness, establishing reporting procedures and educating employees about these policies. Further research is needed to identify the antecedents to harassment that will help employees and managers identify and respond appropriately.

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