Workplaces More Likely to Expose Employees to Sexual Harassment Cut Bigger Paychecks

New research reveals that employees working in environments that pose a higher risk of sexual harassment tend to pull larger paychecks than workers who experience little to no risk of suffering this kind of harassment.

"Sexual harassment in the workplace is so universally despised that people require some extra compensation for exposure to a sexually harassing environment," explained Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University.

Hersch found that on average, women workers who face an “average risk” of sexual harassment earn 25 cents per hour more than women who face little to no risk of sexual harassment on the job. Men who are at an “average risk” of sexual harassment at work, meanwhile, earn 50 cents more an hour than other men. These findings accounted for an array of individual employee characteristics, including education and occupation.

No Excuse for Harassment

Hersch pointed out, however, that higher pay does not validate subjecting workers to the risk of sexual harassment, nor does it suggest that legal protections are not needed.

"The only other work-related risks that receive hazard pay are for risk of injury or fatality, and society would still prefer to eliminate workplace injuries and fatalities as well as sexual harassment in the workplace," said Hersch.

Hersch’s study, “Compensating Differentials for Sexual Harassment,” was published in the May 2011 American Economic Review. Hersch used data on claims of sexual harassment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding local Fair Employment Practices Agencies, which collectively receive about 14,000 allegations of sexual harassment annually.

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