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

Nov. 29, 2011
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.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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