USU UWLP Releases Report on Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment

By Julene Reese | August 11, 2022


Capitol Building

The Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) released a report today,  Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment: Public Policy Solutions for Utah, to help raise awareness and provide recommendations.

With two recent news stories regarding sexual harassment in Utah (Women leaders show solidarity against harassment in Utah politics and Documents detail 2016 sexual harassment claims against Utah state senator), Susan Madsen, UWLP founding director, said the report addressing workplace sexual harassment is more timely than ever. 

“Sexual harassment causes harm, and we know it is a troubling problem in many workplaces across the state, including in political and government contexts,” Madsen said. “With 60% of Utah’s women participating in the workforce, it is time for Utah’s lawmakers to pass legislation that will reduce this type of harassment so more Utah women can work in settings where they can thrive.”

The report states that during the 2021 federal fiscal year, 8,191 sexual harassment claims were filed with the federal government and companion state government agencies that administer sexual harassment laws, with 58 of them filed in Utah. In 2019, pre-pandemic, 11,283 claims were filed nationwide, including 90 in Utah. 

Madsen said the numbers represent only a tiny fraction of workplace sexual harassment. A 2016 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report stated that 58% of women had experienced sex-based harassment, but only 30% reported it to a supervisor or manager, and only 6% to 13% filed a formal legal complaint. Another report found that about five million employees are sexually harassed at work each year, but 99.8% never file a legal claim. A 2020 UWLP study regarding sexist comments in the workplace reported that 37% of women surveyed heard sex-based comments, but only 4% reported them to a superior.

Madsen said workplace sexual harassment causes harm in many ways, including psychological, physical, occupational, and economical. It causes harm to the organizations where it occurs in legal costs, reputational damage, increased employee turnover, increased absences, and reduced productivity.

The UWLP offers recommendations to help employers and state policymakers take action. They include: requiring preventative measures and providing employer tools, taking steps to reduce retaliation, and removing barriers to legal redress.

Information on what to do if you are sexually harassed in the workplace is available on the UWLP website.

Report researchers and authors include Katie Hudman, independent consultant for the UWLP and employment law attorney, and Trish Hatch and Elise Johnson, UWLP research associates.

The UWLP also has public policy analysis and recommendation reports for three other topics: The Complex Childcare Landscape - Public Policy Solutions for UtahUtah is Changing - Should Our Leave Laws Follow Suit?, and Addressing the Gender Pay Gap in Utah with State Equal Pay Laws