Legal profession study reveals widespread sexual harassment

The results of a recent survey suggest that women in the legal profession in Tennessee and around the country often face discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The International Bar Association and a leading market research firm asked 7,000 legal professionals in 135 countries about their day-to-day experiences at work. More than one in three of the women polled stated that they had experienced sexual harassment at least once during their careers.

The figures were even more worrying when the respondents were asked about workplace bullying. Half of the women surveyed claimed that they had been the target of this kind of behavior. Harassment was found to be more common in the public sector than among those in private practice. Furthermore, female judges were more likely to say that they had been victims than attorneys or legal aides. The IBA published an outline of the survey results on May 15.

Almost a quarter of the women polled reported that they had received unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances while at work or put under pressure to enter into a sexual relationship. More than one in five claimed that they had been groped, fondled or subjected to some other form of inappropriate physical contact. Many of the women surveyed reported that they had been sent sexual propositions or pornographic material by email, and 6.7% of them stated that they had been offered employment or promotion in return for sex.

Attorneys with experience in sexual harassment cases will likely be disheartened but not surprised by the results of this survey. They could also understand why professional women are often reluctant to take action in these situations. Legal counsel may suggest that a woman who is worried about not being believed keep detailed records of workplace harassment that includes the times and dates of incidents as well as the names of any others present. A victim should also forward any inappropriate emails to a private account for safekeeping.

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