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Changes in attitudes about sexual harassment over the decades

New York employees who have been in the workplace for decades may find that while general awareness about workplace sexual harassment has increased, the issue continues to be a problem. In a 1980 survey by the Harvard Business Journal, fewer than 30 percent of companies had a formal policy against sexual harassment and only 8 percent provided training in the form of manuals and films. Today, 98 percent of companies have sexual harassment policies in place and 70 percent have some kind of training. However, sexual harassment persists as a workplace problem as has been demonstrated with the high-profile firing of Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly on April 19.

The 1980 report found that only half as many men as women thought workplace sexual harassment was a serious problem. Women also tended to want a more formal resolution process for dealing with sexual harassment claims while men were more inclined to think the women handle the situation on their own. Perceptions differed as well. While a lot of the female respondents believed that men would not disapprove of incidents of sexual harassment that they witnessed, the males reported their disapproval in higher numbers than the women predicted.

Contemporary studies show that sexual harassment continues to be a serious problem in the workplace with one in three women reporting having experienced it. However, only 5 to 15 percent of them went on to file formal complaints.

A person who believes he or she is being sexually harassed in the workplace might want to speak with an attorney about what, exactly, constitutes this behavior and what he or she should do to remedy the situation. For example, a lawyer may advise someone to document the behavior. Even if a victim of harassment plans to try to resolve the issue at work, it may be helpful for him or her to first gain a solid understanding of his or her employee rights and boss’s obligations. If the employer does not respond effectively, an attorney might be able to assist a person with filing a lawsuit.

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