One million Canadian workers — mostly women —...
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Dec 05, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

One million Canadian workers — mostly women — sexually harassed at work in last two years, report estimates

Angus Reid survey found most don’t want to tell the boss, would rather handle on their own.

OurWindsor.Ca

Three in 10 Canadians say they have been on the receiving end of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or sexually charged talk while on the job or at an office function — but the vast majority prefer to deal with it on their own rather than report it to an employer, says a new Angus Reid poll.

And for approximately one million workers (mostly women) in Canada, the experiences are recent — within the last 24 months — despite the current climate of heightened awareness amid the explosive, ongoing allegations against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and embattled TV legend Bill Cosby, the survey found.

Fourteen per cent of those harassed also told the Angus Reid Institute that the experience was much more intense than mere innuendo or talk: it ranged from sexual touching to more serious unwanted sexual contact over their working lives.

While both genders of employees say they have experienced sexual harassment, “women are — unsurprisingly — four times as likely to have been harassed as men,” says the study released Friday.

“While issues of sexual harassment — or worse — have dominated the headlines in context of the stories on Ghomeshi, Cosby and even from Parliament Hill, it was important to measure what’s actually been going on with Canadians,” explained Shachi Kurl, senior vice president at the Angus Reid Institute.

“It’s real, it’s happening. What’s especially concerning is that the vast majority of those who say they’ve experienced harassment or unwanted sexual contact at work didn’t report this to their employers. They’re more comfortable in reporting this in a survey than in real life,” she noted.

Four respondents in five said they would prefer not to report such incidents to employers, with no significant differences between the genders. Most said they preferred to “deal with it on their own,” with 26 per cent feeling the issue was too minor and 21 per cent saying they didn’t think the employer would respond. Others cited being embarrassed by what happened or were afraid to lose their jobs or hurt their careers, the survey found.

“Granted, workplaces can be complicated environments. But what does this say about the state of offices and shop floors in this country?” Kurl said.

In terms of other actions taken instead of reporting to the employer, 40 per cent of those sexually harassed and 42 per cent of those who experienced unwanted contact say they confronted the person directly, while 34 per cent and 33 per cent respectively say they told someone else, like a friend or family member.

The remainder either did nothing, left their jobs or requested transfer to another area, the study shows.

The poll also reveals that Canadians over 35 are more likely than younger people to have experienced harassment or unwanted contact in the workplace at some point.

But there were minimal differences between reported experiences of sexual harassment across other socio-demographic identifiers including occupation type, education, affluence or a particular region of the country, the study says.

However, it found that for the majority, it has occurred on multiple occasions. Seventy-six per cent said it happened more than once and 28 per cent of the harassed group said it happened more than five times, while one-quarter said it happened once.

The findings are the result of a recent national online survey of 1,504 Canadian adults who are currently working or who have worked outside of the home.

The study also explored what Canadians consider to be appropriate behaviour at work or while on the job. While nearly all of those surveyed said that after-work drinks are okay in the workplace context, the results show that men tend to be more accepting of a number of other workplace behaviours than women.

Thirty-four per cent of men ages 18 to 34 said that telling “off colour” jokes was fine, compared to 18 per cent of their female peers; older men (55-plus) were more likely than all women to approve of “calling a co-worker’s outfit sexy” or “giving a colleague a shoulder rub” (39 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women).

Angus Reid conducted the poll from November 18 to 20. A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of within 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Toronto Star

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