Sexual harassment can cost victims hundreds of thousands

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Sexual harassment doesn't just affect survivors' emotional well-being, it can cost them up to $1 million over their lifetime, according to a July 21 report by The Institute for Women's Policy Research.

To assess the financial costs of sexual harassment, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 16 survivors, consulted with experts in the field, drew on existing research and used commonly accepted practices for estimating monetary damages in discrimination lawsuits.

Five things to know:

  1. The lifetime costs of workplace sexual harassment for victims were higher for those pushed out of organizations where employees were well-paid and in male-dominated occupations. If female-dominated organizations, the lifetime costs were significantly lower. Overall, costs ranged from approximately $125,000 to $1.3 million.

  2. Job loss and unemployment from workplace sexual harassment were major factors in costs to individuals. For example, a female apprentice in construction who spends one year out of work may lose $230,864 in lost wages and foregone benefits.

  3. Sexual harassment widens the gender wage gap. Research demonstrated that women can be pushed out of well-paying careers into lower-paid employment to avoid harassment. Sexual harassment victims sometimes faced lower credit ratings, mounting student loan debt and reduced retirement security.

  4. Researchers found that employees who worked in physical isolation may be more vulnerable to harassment. For example, healthcare workers who spend time alone in a patient's room may be more at risk.

  5. Many sexual harassment victims reported working in male-dominated industries, in physically isolated workplaces, in situations with substantial power imbalances and in industries where there aren't clear channels for reporting harassment.

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