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Workplace sexual harassment is down, but sexism is up

Women in Massachusetts can take comfort in knowing that workplace sexual harassment is on the decline. This is according to a study based on a survey of more than 500 women conducted from 2016 to 2018. The women questioned said fondling, leering and ogling, and other types of unwanted sexual attention occurred less frequently during the two-year period studied. However, the same study found that sexism is on the rise.

A quarter of the women surveyed reported experiencing unwanted sexual attention in the workplace in 2018, a drop from 66% in 2016. Instances of sexual coercion dropped to 16% from 25% during the same two years. Sexist remarks and other forms of sexism, however, rose during the two-year study period. Instances of what's also referred to as gender harassment increased from 76 to 93%.

One of the study's authors speculations that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements may have contributed to results seen in the study. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported receiving nearly 15% more sexual harassment complaints in 2018 than the year prior, but this could be because more women are reporting workplace harassment. As for the rise of sexism, researchers theorize that it could be due to #MeToo backlash. Other times, men may be overly cautious. For instance, a different survey found that 60% of male managers report being uncomfortable while alone with women at work.

For times when a woman feels like she is being discriminated against or being subjected to sexism, an employee discrimination attorney may step in if initial efforts to resolve the issue through workplace channels are ineffective. Because sexism is sometimes subtle in nature, an employer may not be aware that it's taking place. If this is the case, a lawyer may push for changes in workplace procedures and training protocols as part of a settlement offer.

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