Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with 21 Senators, today wrote a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary R. Alexander Acosta and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Acting Commissioner William Wiatrowski to urge the BLS to collect data on the economic costs of sexual harassment in the labor force.
“In recent weeks and months, the #MeToo movement has brought to light the experiences of countless workers who have endured sexual harassment for far too long. A vast majority of the American public agrees that this problem is severe, and it is time for our leaders to stand up and address this issue head on… Right now, we do not know how many gifted workers and innovators were unable to contribute to our country because they were forced to choose between working in a harassment-free workplace and their career,” the senators wrote in their letter. “We hope that you will seriously address this enormous threat to our nation’s workers by collecting data on the prevalence and cost of sexual harassment that can better inform policy and procedures to address these problems.”
The BLS is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics and serves as a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System. BLS compiles and releases the monthly analysis on industry job gains and losses, unemployment rate, and wage growth and loss.
Gillibrand was joined by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
The full text of the Senators’ letter is available here and below:
January 29, 2018
Mr. R. Alexander Acosta
Secretary of Labor
Department of Labor
Mr. William J. Wiatrowski
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Postal Square Building
Dear Secretary Acosta and Acting Commissioner Wiatrowski,
In recent weeks and months, the #MeToo movement has brought to light the experiences of countless workers who have endured sexual harassment for far too long. A vast majority of the American public agrees that this problem is severe, and it is time for our leaders to stand up and address this issue head on.
However, there has not been an exact accounting of the extent of this discrimination and the magnitude of its economic costs on the labor force. We therefore request that your agencies work to collect this data.
What is known is that harassment is not confined to one industry or one group. It affects minimum-wage fast-food workers, middle-class workers at car manufacturing plants, and white-collar workers in finance and law, among many others. No matter the place or source, harassment has a tangible and negative economic effect on individuals’ lifetime income and retirement, and its pervasiveness damages the economy as a whole.
The data currently available about sexual harassment paints a disturbing picture. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that 87,683 sexual harassment claims were filed between 2010 and 2016, these numbers are confined to those workers who have been able to file a claim with that agency. The EEOC has also asserted that anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having been sexually harassed in the workplace. Another nongovernmental source placed the number of women who have experienced unwanted sexual advances from male co-workers closer to 33 million, or 30%, of female workers in the United States.
The personal costs of sexual harassment are often invisible, yet are no less real, and are often coupled with negative economic consequences. Sexual harassment can have both psychological and physical consequences, including depression, anxiety, muscle aches, headaches, and high blood pressure. These ailments can result in missed workdays and reduced productivity. Harassment can also result in decreased self-esteem or self-worth as a professional.
Often, employees are financially coerced into enduring this toxic environment because they cannot afford to leave it. One report found that 90% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment. More than half of those workers endured those behaviors on at least a weekly basis, and often by customers.
In some instances when workplace sexual harassment occurs, employees choose to leave their job, or even their career, rather than continue to experience harassment. In fact, women who have been harassed are 6.5 times more likely to change jobs than those who have not. These consequences are particularly concerning in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, where approximately one in five women report experiencing sexual harassment at work. When women are involved in patenting activity, they are roughly as likely as men to commercialize their ideas, and mixed-gender teams are even more likely to do so than when men work alone, yet women with science and engineering PhDs are more likely to leave the field than men. Those losses rob opportunities from our country as well as those individuals.
When a worker changes jobs or industries, there are costs for the employer as well as the worker. Employees lose out on the ability to be promoted or receive raises or bonuses, and employers have to cover replacement costs to find a new worker. This drives down the labor force participation rate and increases the wage gap. Moreover, it is a loss to society. Right now, we do not know how many gifted workers and innovators were unable to contribute to our country because they were forced to choose between working in a harassment-free workplace and their career.
We hope that you will seriously address this enormous threat to our nation’s workers by collecting data on the prevalence and cost of sexual harassment that can better inform policy and procedures to address these problems. We look forward to your prompt response.