Report finds fewer Utah workers experiencing sexual harassment

The Utah Women and Leadership Project has concluded Utah is seeing fewer sexual harassment reports but has identified where problems remain.

The Utah Women and Leadership Project has concluded Utah is seeing fewer sexual harassment reports but has identified where problems remain. (Ryan Sun, Deseret News)


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LOGAN — An update from the Utah Women and Leadership Project addresses sexual harassment complaints across the state and concludes Utah is seeing fewer sexual harassment reports.

"In Utah, the number of sexual harassment charges has dropped in the last two years, with only 0.6% of the population reporting to the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)," the authors concluded.

On average, there are three to four charges of sexual harassment per 100,000 people in Utah, the report said.

Good news, but issues remain for Utah women

The report also points to ongoing problem areas, including employees who continue working for an employer despite being sexually harassed.

Susan Madsen, founding director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project, said employees in lower-income or service jobs are more likely to stay in workplaces where sexual harassment occurs.

Many of these employees, Madsen says, are more concerned about job security than their comfort at work and can't risk leaving their jobs.

Another reason employees stay in work situations where they are being sexually harassed is fear of retaliation.

"They're people that need their job; that paycheck is feeding their kids," Madsen said. "(They don't have) what some people would say, the 'luxury' of just quitting."

Madsen said that in Utah, 70% of people don't report incidents of harassment in their workplace for fear of retaliation.

Those most at risk

Women of color are more likely the targets for sexual harassment, according to the report. Age is another risk factor. Teens tend to work in situations where there is no supervisor and can lack understanding about how to report sexual harassment and to whom to report it.

The study contends that teens' use of social media can also expose them to a greater risk of sexual harassment.

The researchers conclude that Utah leaders and businesses should focus on ethical leadership development, bystander-intervention training and developing programs that create healthy workplace environments.

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