Identifying Industries with High Rates of Sexual Harassment

Which Industries Have the Worst Sexual Harassment Problems?

Over the last few months, the headlines have been dominated with shocking stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood. Even though these stories just started to emerge recently, many actors, actresses, directors, and producers have acknowledged that sexual harassment has always been a major issue within the industry. But unfortunately, the entertainment industry is far from the only industry that is plagued with this problem.

A researcher, Jocelyn Frye, at the Center for American Progress recently analyzed data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) between the years 2005 and 2015. Her goal was to determine “high-risk” sexual harassment industries, meaning fields of work where women and men may be more likely to be sexually harassed in the workplace. Here’s a look at some of the industries that have the worst sexual harassment problems:

Accommodation and Food Services

The accommodation and food service industry, which includes restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hotels, and more, topped the list of the worst industries for sexual harassment. According to the EEOC’s data, around 14% of all sexual harassment claims filed between 2005 and 2015 were filed by workers in this industry.

The fact that this industry is at the top of the list is not surprising to many people. Workers in the accommodation and food service industry often rely on tips, which leaves them vulnerable to harassment. In 2014, the Restaurant Opportunities Center reported that 90% of women working in restaurants had experienced unwanted sexual advances at work, and more than half of these women said they experienced this on a weekly basis. Clearly, this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed within this industry.

Retail Trade

Next on the list is the retail trade industry, which accounted for 13.44% of sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC between 2005 and 2015. Similar to the accommodation and food service industry, the retail trade industry consists of many low-wage, female workers that are vulnerable to harassment at the hands of their supervisors. Because the retail industry is so competitive, supervisors also feel as if they have more to offer lower level employees, which could lead to a significant number of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment incidents.

Co-workers and supervisors aren’t the only ones who retail workers have to worry about. Retail workers provide customer service, which means they are also at risk of being harassed by customers.


Manufacturing was the third industry on this list of the industries with the biggest sexual harassment problem. Between 2005 and 2015, nearly 12% of all sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC came from this industry. The problem in the manufacturing industry is very different than the problem in the retail, accommodation, and food service industries. Whereas those industries are dominated by low-wage female workers, the manufacturing industry is dominated by men. As a result, women who enter into this industry may be seen as unequal or outsiders, which puts them at risk of being sexually harassed. In order to prevent sexual harassment in the manufacturing industry, businesses in this field need to ensure they are not using the “boys will be boys” excuse to justify inappropriate and illegal behavior.

Healthcare and Social Assistance

The healthcare and social assistance industry landed at number four on the list. This industry accounted for 11.48% of all sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC between 2005 and 2015. Like many of the other industries on this list, the healthcare and social assistance industry is dominated by low-wage female employees. Furthermore, many of the low-wage workers in this industry are women of color, who are even more vulnerable to sexual harassment than white women.

People in this industry are responsible for caring for others, so they spend a lot of one-on-one time with the people they help. Unfortunately, they often have to endure inappropriate behavior in order to get their jobs done.

Transportation and Warehousing

Further down on the list is the transportation and warehousing industry, which accounted for nearly 5% of all sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC in the 10-year period that was studied. Similar to manufacturing, the transportation and warehousing industry is dominated by men. Male-dominated companies are more likely to have “locker room” cultures where inappropriate and sexually aggressive behavior is accepted. Because of this, many women in the transportation and warehousing industry are targeted simply because they are females who are the minority in this male-dominated field.

Finance and Insurance

The finance and insurance industry accounted for 3.98% of all sexual harassment claims between 2005 and 2015. Finance and insurance are typically thought of as male-dominated industries. Even though more women have been entering the field over the last decade, many of the top positions within this industry are still held by men. This means that men have far more power within the finance and insurance industry than women do, which they can use to take advantage of lower level female workers.

The finance and insurance industry is also incredibly competitive because many people want to succeed in this industry due to the number of lucrative opportunities at the top. Sadly, people who are in positions of power may use this competitiveness to their advantage by offering promotions, raises, and other opportunities in exchange for sex. Until there is a balance of power between men and women, sexual harassment will continue to be a problem within the finance and insurance industry.

Have you been sexually harassed in the workplace? If so, seek legal representation from an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. Regardless of the industry you work in, our employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are ready to seek justice against your employer on your behalf.  Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.