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EEOC reports harassment in the workplace is still a problem

Some in Minnesota may like to think that in this age of equality, workplace harassment has become a thing of the past. However, as a recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reveals, the struggle to end harassment in the workplace continues, particularly when it comes to harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This is despite the EEOC's attempts to prohibit such discrimination based on existing law that makes discrimination against a worker based on sex illegal.

According to the report, during the last fiscal year, as many as 33 percent of the 90,000 discrimination charges the agency received included claims of harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, racial harassment and harassment based on ethnicity. In fact, according to the report, as many as 60 percent of workers were subject to workplace harassment based on their race or ethnicity.

When it comes to LGBT workers, as many as 35 percent of LGBT workers who are out were harassed at work. As many as 58 percent of LGBT workers reportedly heard people speak in a derogatory fashion with regards to gender identity and sexual orientation. In addition, one study reports that over 40 percent of LGBT respondents report experiencing verbal or physical abuse in the workplace or had their work space vandalized.

In another survey of transsexual workers, half of respondents claimed they were harassed while at work, 41 percent were asked unwelcomed and improper questions regarding their gender identity and 7 percent claimed they were physically assaulted at work. Moreover, 45 percent of respondents claimed they were referred to with the incorrect pronouns in the workplace both purposefully and wrongfully.

Unfortunately, despite all of these, approximately 75 percent of those who experience harassment in the workplace did not report it to their supervisor or union representative. Information regarding why this may be was not disclosed. However, some people may fear that if they report workplace harassment, they might experience unlawful retaliation.

Workers have rights in the workplace, including rights against harassment and employment discrimination. The EEOC aims to eliminate all forms of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, but in addition to that, it is important for employers to create a culture where harassment is not allowed.

Source: Slate, "Harassment Is Still a Massive Problem in the American Workplace," Mark Joseph Stern, June 20, 2016

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