‘Hazard pay’ for sexual harassment

VANDERBILT (US) — Both men and women workers who are at risk of sexual harassment on the job are paid more for exposure to that risk.

But while women are six times more likely to experience sexual harassment than men, they are paid 25 cents per hour more than workers who are not at risk—compared to men who receive 50 cents per hour more.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is so universally despised that people require some extra compensation for exposure to a sexually harassing environment,” says Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University.


The fact that workers receive higher pay for assuming a risk of sexual harassment does not validate subjecting workers to this risk or imply that legal protections are not needed, Hersch says.

“The only other work-related risks that receive hazard pay are for risk of injury or fatality, and society would still prefer to eliminate workplace injuries and fatalities as well as sexual harassment in the workplace.”

For the study, published in American Economic Review, Hersch used data on claims of sexual harassment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding local Fair Employment Practices Agencies, which collectively receive about 14,000 allegations of sexual harassment annually.

The findings, that take into account a wide array of individual worker characteristics, including education and occupation, include:

  • Female workers are six times more likely than male workers to experience sexual harassment on the job.
  • Women in jobs with an average risk of sexual harassment are paid, on average, 25 cents per hour more than comparable women in jobs with little risk of sexual harassment.
  • Men in jobs with an average risk of sexual harassment receive, on average, 50 cents per hour more.

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