Sexual harassment occurs in virtually every professional industry. However, research shows that certain environmental factors make it more likely in some business environments than in others. Employers that have one or more of these risk factors in place may need to devote extra attention to educating staff members about sexual harassment and otherwise working to prevent it.
Per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the following variables make sexual harassment more likely to occur in a place of business.
Reliance on customer satisfaction
Sexual harassment is often more common in work settings where employees have to rely on tips for their income. This “service with a smile” obligation may make workers less likely to speak out about sexual harassment they experience because they may fear losing income or losing their jobs entirely.
A young workforce
Younger workers who have less professional experience may not always know what does and does not constitute workplace sexual harassment. Thus, this type of behavior is often more pervasive in restaurants, bars and other environments that have a lot of young people on staff than they are in settings where workers are older and have more experience.
A notable power disparity
Another variable that raises the odds of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace is when a substantial power disparity exists between employees. In some cases, notable power disparities make higher-ranking employees feel more comfortable exploiting those who work beneath them.
Other factors that may also raise the risk of sexual harassment occurring in a workplace include isolated work environments and those that tolerate or encourage the consumption of alcohol during work hours.