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What Economic Costs do Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment Suffer?

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It is staggering that one out of four women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace at some point in their lives. A recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) sheds light on the negative financial and career consequences of workplace sexual harassment for individual workers.

The financial impact of workplace sexual harassment can be incredibly detrimental and long-lasting to those who experience it, limiting their career advancement and threatening their economic security during their working lives and even into retirement. For those working in low-wage jobs, the short-term and long-term impact on their economic security can be particularly severe.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • The lifetime costs of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation were particularly high for those pushed out of well-paid, men-dominated occupations.
  • Job loss, forced job change, and unemployment due to workplace sexual harassment are major contributors to individuals’ costs.
  • Losing valuable pension and health insurance benefits are common consequences of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation.
  • Forced career change may necessitate paying for new degrees or credentials.
  • Sexual harassment contributes to the gender wage gap. Case studies in the report show how women were pushed out of well-paying careers—including in fields dominated by men such as construction, trucking, and IT—into lower-paid or less regular employment.
  • The consequential costs of sexual harassment were severe for those working in low-paid jobs. Loss of earnings translated into higher financial charges, lower credit ratings, mounting student loan debt, repossession of cars, evictions from housing, including temporary homelessness, and reduced retirement security.
  • Policies designed to prevent workplace sexual harassment are not working. For every individual interviewed, the costs were magnified because those best-positioned to help address the harmful behavior (supervisors, human resources staff, colleagues) failed to act—or even worse, retaliated against the individuals.
  • The research confirms common risk factors of sexual harassment and retaliation, including working in men-dominated industries, in physically isolated workplaces, in situations of substantial power imbalance (including due to immigration status), and in industries with no clear channels for reporting harassment because of subcontracting, franchising, and other decentralized employment structures.
  • The lack of nationally representative data on sexual harassment and its costs—both to individuals and the broader economy—is unacceptable. No data sources allow analysis by occupation and industry of the prevalence or the consequences of harassment, let alone data that are detailed enough to fully analyze and explore the intersectional nature and impact of harassment on the women, men, and non-binary people who face harassment at the cross-sections of multiple oppressions. Such data are urgently needed to establish benchmarks and allow us to track progress in tackling harassment over time.

If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should contact one of our experienced New Hampshire sexual harassment attorneys. Please call Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. at (603) 288-1403 to see if we can help or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.