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EEO Laws

What Are Your Organization’s Risk Factors for Harassment?

Aug 23, 2016

eeoc harassment risk assessment

In June, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its report on the Study on Harassment in the Workplace. The 18-month study included 16 task force members and 30 witnesses who testified.

But why is the EEOC focusing so hard on workplace harassment right now? The answer, sadly, is that workplace harassment is still a problem at many companies even though it’s been prohibited for several decades.

In fact, 33 percent of EEOC discrimination charges in 2015 still involved harassment.

Interested in learning more about the report? Check out our recently recorded webinar with employment lawyer Lynn Lieber.

The Problem of Harassment in Numbers

According to the EEOC, it recovered $164.5 million in damages in fiscal year 2015. And those were only direct costs. None of the soft costs, such as lost productivity, turnover and lowered morale, aren’t included in this number.

Plus, these are only charges that are brought to the EEOC in the first place. It doesn’t account for anything that was settled without its involvement.

And unfortunately, many people who experience harassment at work, don’t say anything. According to the report, 90 percent of people who experience unlawful harassment never actually file a formal charge or complaint.

Also, did you know that sexual harassment is not the only category of harassment? While sexual harassment might receive the majority of media attention, harassment can actually be based on any of the protected categories.

Here is a breakdown of the percentage of claims filed for some of the protected categories:

  • 45 percent sexual harassment
  • 34 percent race
  • 19 percent disability
  • 16 percent age
  • 13 percent national origin
  • 5 percent religion

(Note: the numbers don’t add up to 100 because individuals can allege various protected classes as the basis for their actions.)

In order to reduce these numbers, the EEOC is insisting employers confront harassment and take a proactive approach to expelling it from their workplaces. To help, they’ve identified several potential “risk factors” for harassment.

Identifying Your Risk Factors

Certain elements might put you at a higher risk for harassment. According to the task force:

“The thought was that if we could identify “risk factors,” that might give employers a roadmap for taking proactive measures to reduce harassment in their workplaces.”

To help you think about your own workforce, here are a few of the risk factors the EEOC discovered and their characteristics:

Homogeneous Workforces

A homogenous workforce is basically all the same demographically.

  • Majority of one sex or gender
  • Dominant race, ethnicity or national origin
  • Majority of one age group
  • Only one minority in a work group

Diverse Workforces

Diverse workforces include many language and cultural differences.

  • A recent influx of individuals with different cultures or nationalities
  • Workplaces that contain significant “blocs” of workers from different cultures
  • Workers who don’t speak English (or the country’s “national” language)

Workforces Where Some Don’t Conform to Norms

This includes workplaces where some employees do not conform to societal norms.

  • Workplaces with transgender employees;
  • Employees whose sexual orientation isn’t straight
  • Workers with “manifest/visible disabilities”
  • Single sex dominated workplaces

Young Workforces

This includes workplaces where the majority of employees are teenagers or young adults.

  • Most workers’ first or second job
  • Inexperience with laws and workplace norms

Compensation Tied to Satisfaction or Service

This includes workplaces where an employee’s compensation may be directly tied to customer satisfaction or client service.

  • Workers who rely on tips
  • Commissioned sales people

Isolated Workspaces

Isolated workspaces keep workers from interacting with supervisors or co-workers.

  • Places where employees work alone
  • Workspaces with no offices
  • Workers without direct supervision (ex. janitors, housekeeping, agricultural workers)


While not every workplace exhibits these characteristics, it’s important to evaluate your unique risk factors for harassment because the EEOC has made it clear that employers need to step up and take action.

And based on the numbers from 2015, there is a serious business case for evaluating and improving  your harassment prevention efforts—including your anti-harassment training.

If you want to find out more about how our anti-harassment training can help your prevention efforts, schedule a demo with one of our compliance specialists today.

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