Senators call for better data collection to measure economic impact of sexual harassment

A group of 22 senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), sent a letter to the Department of Labor on Monday requesting that the department establish better, and more detailed, methods of collecting data on sexual harassment in the workplace.

“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,” the letter states.

The senators, all Democrats, want labor officials to measure the “extent of discrimination” and how it impacts the American labor force. Harassment and discrimination affects minimum-wage workers, middle class workers and white-collar workers, and Gillibrand points out that in addition to the emotional  costs, there are also economic ones:

“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 and physical consequences, including depression, anxiety, muscle aches, headaches, and high blood pressure. These ailments can result in missed workdays and reduced productivity.”

The letter also cites statistics showing 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.”

It also points to a report stating that 90% of female workers in the restaurant field have experienced sexual harassment, with over 50% doing so on a weekly basis.

Gillibrand has asked for a “prompt response” from the Labor Department.