While it has long been clear that victims of sexual harassment often face retaliation that can hurt their careers, the financial cost they incur has been difficult to quantify.
To put a number on that, a study published Wednesday by Time’s Up and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) called Pay Today and Tomorrow sought to determine what people who were harassed paid. Victims interviewed faced expenses ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For a woman working in the well-paid, male-dominated construction industry, the cost of a life can be as high as $1.3 million, according to the study. Even someone forced out of a low-paying job like those in the fast food industry saw financial fallout totaling $125,600.
The workers in the study came from a variety of industries — from technology to trucking to janitorial services. Almost everyone said they had lost some of their work or had been forced to quit their job altogether.
Most of them lost responsibilities and were paid as retaliation for speaking out – they were neglected for hours, due to poor performance appraisals, or denied bonuses and promotions until they were fired or fired. Some have been unemployed for up to five years.
According to the study, many professions have changed, starting over in jobs that pay much less than what they left behind. For some, it meant spending more money on retraining or education. Meanwhile, everyone experienced lost wages, lost health benefits, and exhausted retirement savings as debt piled up.
Nicole Mason, president of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, when the #MeToo movement started in earnest in 2018, “we had all these women share their stories.” But “we have very little research or data on what this means for women’s economic mobility, security, and job mobility. We haven’t really been able to answer that question.”
The data may be difficult to obtain. Settlements usually come with non-disclosure agreements, and the government does not require companies to report whether a woman is leaving because of harassment.
“We took trying to define this as a personal task,” Mason said.
Marilyn’s case is a prime example of what can happen. Marilyn, who asked to be identified by first name due to ongoing litigation, said colleagues at the agency she worked for warned that she was being promoted for the wrong reasons. According to a lawsuit she filed in May, Marilyn soon found out what she meant.
Two months after starting her new job as an executive assistant, she claimed that her supervisor started making comments about her appearance and personal life. Then he started leaving small gifts with handwritten cards in her office at night, she said.
But when Marilyn told him she wasn’t interested, everything changed – he started sending out a barrage of emails asking for more work. When she complained, Marilyn found herself relieved of duties and privileges while promoting her supervisor, according to court papers. It was also moved from the C-suite to a reception area – right next to the camera.
Marilyn said she concluded she had no future at the agency, and resigned. I got the right to sue the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and did so in state court. But she also moved to another state, where she was forced to take an entry-level job in a different field, one in which she had no experience, she said. Years later, Marilyn said she had yet to earn the kind of money she made at her old job.
Marilyn’s claims are the kind many companies seek to avoid through vigorous training and warnings of potential harassment. But so far, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting said, at least a quarter of women still experience sexual harassment at work. The financial consequences affect the gender pay gap which causes them to earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. Many of the women interviewed with Time’s Up and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) quit high-paying jobs, some in male-dominated settings, to work for lower pay.
Men can also be harassed. Anthony Gerness, who in 2019 filed a complaint with the EEOC, said he started working for a real estate company in Gainesville, Florida, at the age of 19. .
Within a month of starting his new role, Gerennis claimed that a fellow older than him had unwelcome accomplishments. Gerennis said in an interview that I was “absolutely terrified”, because he “has been in his hands all my life.” When Gerness dismissed him, he was stripped of his responsibilities and later fired, according to his EEOC report.
Gerennis said he lost his health insurance, struggled to pay for glaucoma medicine, and in the meantime depleted his savings. “I went from getting a $103,000 compensation package to applying for food stamps,” he said in an interview. “All you lost – now you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
While he was trying to find another job, Gerness said he feels like he’s been blacklisted. Nine years of experience and two awards that fail to earn him any callbacks. “This is my whole career,” he said, “and I feel so neglected.” “I was forever touched and forever touched by just one bad act.”
IWPR and Times UP said studying such cases is just the beginning, and they plan to conduct a broader analysis.
“The conversations in 2018 were about lawsuits and accountability,” Mason said of starting #MeToo. “This moment is really looking at what the impact is, how do we talk about what we’re losing economically.”