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Low wage workers are vulnerable to sexual harassment

We have all heard the stories of women who have been sexually harassed in the workplace. In fact, many of us have been a victim. Research shows that 25-85% of women have experienced harassment in the workplace. With the attention recently on women being harassed in the workplace it may seem like the situation is getting better. There has been additional training and penalties for workplace harassment but unfortunately it is not getting better for everyone. Those who work in low wage jobs are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Workers who are in low wage, female dominated industries have the highest reports of sexual harassment in the United States. These include restaurants, fast food industries, hotels, etc. There are many reasons why these women have an increased risk of harassment which include:

  • Power disparity: For example, in the restaurant industry, two-thirds of women are tipped workers. Therefore, they rely heavily on tips to make a living and make them more vulnerable for abuse from their supervisors. They are less likely to report abuse for fear of losing their job. Eighty percent of female workers in the restaurant industry report experiencing sexual harassment on the job.
  • Intersectional disadvantages: Women who work in low wage jobs also often face burdens posed by race, national origin, gender identity, and other characteristics besides gender alone. Immigrant workers may face language barriers where they don’t understand the laws against sexual harassment. These women may worry they will face deportation if they report any kind of harassment. Transgender women are more than twice as likely to face harassment.
  • Physical isolation: Women who spend much of their working time alone, those who clean hotel rooms, office buildings, remote agricultural work, home health care, etc. often face harassment from hotel guests, their patients, other workers, and others. There are typically no eyewitnesses or camera recordings of the offenses, and so they go unreported unless or until the victim reports them.

If a person believes they are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace they should know they have legal rights. An attorney who specializes in harassment can help their client understand their rights and make sure they hold their abuser accountable.