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California Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics 2024

Table of Contents for Specific Topics

Sexual harassment is a widespread problem that affects many demographics and is difficult to calculate statistics for due to how often it goes unreported. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from workplace sexual harassment by taking steps to prevent it and taking appropriate action if it happens. In California, there is specific anti-harassment training that all staff including supervisors are required to take regularly. However, sexual harassment is a pressing issue in the workplace that is still experienced many different people. It can help to recognize where these issues are the most common to help prevent it from happening and better respond when it does.


How Many People are Sexually Harassed or Assaulted in California Every Year?

Statistics on sexual harassment in California for women show approximately 86% experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers which is 5% higher than the national average of 81%. The rate of sexual harassment for men in California is approximately 53% with an even higher rate for those born in another country. This CA estimate is 10% higher than the national average of 43%. Members of the LGBT community are also about three times more likely to experience sexual harassment or assault. Because these numbers are taken from incidents being reported, it is unclear if the higher percentages are due to a higher rate of occurrence or a higher rate of people being willing and able to come forward.


How Many People are Sexually Harassed in the Workplace Every Year in California?

Data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2010 through 2020 showed an average of nearly 400 sexual harassment charges filed annually, with as many as 515 charges filed in 2012. The EEOC reported California as having the fourth highest rate of sexual harassment charges in the country, contributing roughly 5.5% of all sexual harassment cases filed during that time. The state with the highest rate of sexual harassment claims was Texas with an average of nearly 800 charges annually, accounting for roughly 10.9% of such cases filed during that time.

According to the EEOC, workplace sexual harassment charges filed in 2021 from California included:

  • 203 from women (2.7% of women in California)
  • 64 from men (0.8% of men in California)
  • 5 from other genders (0.1% of people in California)


Sexual Harassment Statistics by Gender and Sexual Orientation

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone in any demographic, but there are those who are at a higher risk. Studies have shown that most women and approximately half of all men in general have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their workplace. Broken down even further to account for gender and sexuality the averages are approximately:

  • 25% of Cisgender Heterosexual Women
  • 33% of Cisgender Heterosexual Men
  • 80% of Gay and Bisexual Women
  • 75% of Gay and Bisexual Men
  • 90% of Transgender People

Given how often these situations go unreported, it is assumed that those numbers are actually much higher across the board. Many victims do not feel safe coming forward or have been socially conditioned not to complain about or admit to being victimized.


How Many People are Sexually Harassed in the Workplace Every Year in Los Angeles?

It is difficult to determine how many people in an area like Los Angeles are sexually harassed in a given year, but a survey was conducted by the Los Angeles Personnel Department in 2018 to shed some light on the frequency of workplace sexual harassment. While this sample of government employees may not be representative of the entire city, it does help provide some metrics given the sample size. Out of approximately 45,000 employees that worked for the LA Personnel Department, 4,205 responded to the survey. Out of those who responded, about 17% confirmed experiencing some form of workplace sexual harassment while on the clock. About 1% confirmed experiencing some form of workplace sexual harassment after work hours. Half of the people who confirmed being sexually harassed at work also confirmed that they never reported it. About half of the total people who responded at all revealed that they did not have information about or access to the department or person who would handle such matters.


How Many People are Sexually Harassed in the Workplace Every Year Nationwide?

According to a study conducted by CNBC, about 20% of people in the country have been the victims of sexual harassment. Annual nationwide data from the EEOC showed that approximately:

  • 45% of the claims they receive are sex based
  • 25% of female employees experienced sexual harassment
  • 35% of openly LGBT+ employees experienced sex-based harassment
  • 58% of LGBT+ employees reported being the topic of derogatory comments at work
  • 7-41% of LGBT employees have been the victims of verbal or physical abuse at work

According to data compiled by the EEOC, from 2018 through 2021 they received 98,411 harassment claims, 27,291 or roughly 28% of which were specifically regarding sexual harassment. Approximately 61,211 of the 98,411 harassment claims and 21,341 of the 27,291 sexual harassment claims were filed by women.

The year with the highest number of sexual harassment charges was 2018 with 7,609, which correlates with the #MeToo movement at the end of 2017.


Nationwide Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics by Race

Of the 27,291 sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC from 2018 through 2021, there were 1,945 claims that also claimed racial discrimination, over 71% of which were Black/African American. Of the 797 people that claimed national origin discrimination as well as sexual harassment, over 37% were Hispanic and roughly 16% were Mexican.


Nationwide Sexual Harassment Retaliation Statistics

Retaliation is unfortunately a common risk when opposing any kind of discrimination or harassment. In fact, retaliation is the most common charge brought to the EEOC. According to data from 2018 through 2021, of the 27,291 sexual harassment charges they received, 11,880 included a retaliation charge as well. Over 48% of those involved termination with nearly 21% involving constructive termination. Over 33% also involved some other type of harassment.


Nationwide Sexual Harassment Statistics by Industry

It has been noted that some professions and industries have higher rates for sexual harassment. For many workers, particularly in service industries, the risk comes from employers, coworkers, and clients and customers as well. Data was compiled from the years 2005 through 2015 to see what industries appeared the most. Of the sexual harassment charges filed during that decade, the highest percentages were:

  • 23% from Accommodation/Food Service
  • 44% from Retail
  • 72% from Manufacturing
  • 48% from Health Care/Social Work
  • 92% from Support/Waste Management
  • 48% from Public Administration
  • 73% from Tech/Science Services
  • 94% from Transportation/Warehousing
  • 98% from Finance/Insurance
  • 98% from Education


What is Considered Workplace Sexual Harassment in California?

When defining sexual harassment California state law follows the federal standards set out by the EEOC:

“Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.”

The conduct can be physical, verbal, or even visual. Common examples of workplace sexual harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Making unwanted sexual advances or propositions
  • Offering job perks in exchange for sexual favors
  • Threatening adverse employment action to coerce sexual favors
  • Performing or simulating sexual acts in front of others
  • Exposing one’s genitals to others
  • Sending sexually explicit messages
  • Displaying sexually explicit pictures or videos
  • Sexually explicit jokes or comments
  • Derogatory jokes or comments about orientation or anatomy
  • Invasive personal questions about someone’s anatomy or sex life
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Sexual violence or assault

People who have been sexually assaulted, meaning forced into sexual acts, are encouraged to go to the hospital and/or the police.

It is important to note that one of the main criteria for sexual harassment is that the conduct is unwanted. When people think of sexual harassment, they imagine scenarios that are obvious and even extreme. But there can be subtler or more complex situations as well. It is often not about intent, but how it is received. Someone might tell a slightly raunchy joke thinking others will simply be amused. Someone else might be a naturally tactile person and think nothing of hugging their coworkers or placing a hand on someone’s back or shoulder. Another person might ask a personal question in good faith, not realizing how invasive it might be. Isolated incidents of less severe conduct may not be considered sexual harassment on their own, particularly if the person is informed that the conduct is unwanted, and they stop. It is when they know that the conduct is unwelcome that it becomes more clearly defined as harassment. This is one of the reasons that it is important to be clear if someone’s behavior in the workplace is making you uncomfortable.


What are the 2 Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment at work is generally defined under two categories: quid pro quo, and hostile work environment. Although they are different types of behavior, they are not mutually exclusive, and can often overlap. Hostile work environment can coincide with or be used as retaliation for someone opposing quid pro quo harassment.


Quid Quo Pro

When people hear the term “workplace sexual harassment” the first thing that comes to mind is probably most often quid pro quo harassment. This is when someone with power over an employee uses that power to coerce them into sexual activities, generally by solicitation or blackmail. Whether the motivation is a matter of using power to obtain sex, or using sex to maintain power, it is illegal under federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Quid pro quo harassment can be a supervisor offering perks, benefits or promotions to an employee on the condition that they provide sexual favors, or a supervisor threatening to fire, demote, or blacklist an employee if they do not provide sexual favors. These are also not mutually exclusive methods, and many employers may use both at the same time.


Hostile Work Environment

The term “hostile work environment” is often used in reference to many types of discrimination and harassment. On its own, the term may have different meaning to different people, but there are particular defining criteria to determine what is considered an illegal hostile work environment, such as:

  • Conduct that is unwanted and unwelcome
  • Based on a protected category, in this case, sex, orientation, or gender
  • The conduct is pervasive, consistent, or severe
  • The hostile environment prevents the victim from being able to perform their job

Hostile work environment sexual harassment can manifest in many different ways and can coincide with other forms of discrimination and harassment.


What Should You Do If You Experience Workplace Sexual Harassment?

As with all discrimination and harassment, the first recommended step is to make a formal detailed written complaint to HR or the equivalent department or person via email. Hard documented evidence is always helpful to have. Any employee in the country can file a complaint with the EEOC and California employees can also file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

In their report form 2018 through 2021, the EEOC calculated that claims including sexual harassment resulted in almost $300 million being recovered for the victims. They have also noted a steady increase in the number of claims that are resolved in favor of the employee. Numbers from 2014 through 2017 calculated almost $200 million, accounting for over 12% of total recoveries.


How Many Sexual Harassment Incident Likely Go Unreported?

Studies have shown that approximately 75% of sexual harassment is never reported. Some of this may be due to cultural stigma which may be why men are much less likely to report it. There is also the fear of retaliation, which is a reason many people being discriminated against or harassed at work never come forward. It is important to remember that it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for making a complaint about illegal discrimination or harassment. There is also the fear that the employer will not take the complaint seriously. While this is a common result, the employer has a legal responsibility to protect their employees from all types of illegal harassment. If they do not resolve the matter internally, the employee can take their claim higher up which can make their employer liable for damages. It is worth noting that people coming forward about their experiences can also encourage others to do so as well. In 2017, a Takeaway-Harris Poll reported that out of 2,138 people, 60% felt that they could speak up because they knew others had been through the same thing.


Contact Mesriani Law Group if You Have Experienced Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual harassment can be demoralizing and frightening. No one should have to go through that alone. An employment attorney can give you the help and support you need to get the justice you deserve. Our firm is experienced, hardworking, and dedicated to taking care of our clients as we fight for them every step of the way. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or have been retaliated against for filing a formal complaint, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.


Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistic FAQs

What percent of the population has been sexually harassed?

Studies have shown that nationwide, at least 81% of all women and 43% of all men have experienced sexual harassment or assault at some point. Some studies have shown that at least 38% of women and 14% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The RAINN organization has found that at least 17% of women and 3% of men have experienced sexual assault. They also found that approximately 12% of reported assaults occurred in the workplace.

Who is more likely to be sexually harassed?

Statistics on sexual harassment have shown that people belonging to marginalized demographics are at a higher risk of being targeted. Studies have shown that women are roughly twice as likely than men to experience sexual harassment, even taking into account that men are less likely to admit that it happened. Members of the LGBT+ community also experience workplace sexual harassment at a very high rate. Approximately 90% of people who are transgender or nonbinary have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment.

How many men are sexually harassed?

Throughout the country, approximately 43% of men have reported being sexually harassed or assaulted at some point, and approximately 14% of men have reported sexual harassment in the workplace. In the state of California, approximately 53% of men have reported sexual harassment or assault at some point, and approximately 8% of men have reported sexual harassment in the workplace. Because men are generally less likely to come forward, those numbers are believed to be much higher.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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