California Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics [2024 Updated]

Frank S. Clowney III

Though always unpleasant, sexual harassment is especially stressful at work since your job performance and security are at stake. If you’ve been victimized by workplace sexual harassment, be sure to speak with a sexual harassment attorney. Understanding California workplace sexual harassment statistics can help you determine if you have been affected and the potential routes you have to resolve the issue.

What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like in the Workplace in California?

Sexual harassment is considered by the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to be any instance of harassment that includes workplace discrimination based on an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, sex, or gender identity; a related form can be motivated by sexual orientation discrimination.

Workplace sexual harassment can include an employee being offered job perks in exchange for sexual favors, known as quid pro quo, unwanted sexual advances, or repeated romantic proposals after initial refusal. Behaviors like leering, sexual gestures, inappropriate comments/discussions or jokes, and physical contact by blocking a person’s walking path or movement also constitute sexual harassment.

Workers who refuse to engage in these unwanted behaviors with a supervisor or manager may also experience a lack of training opportunities, an inability to progress through promotions, or even be fired.

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in California and Nationwide

A 2019 study conducted by the University of California San Diego’s Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH) had the following findings:

  • Across the state of California, 86 percent of women and 53 percent of men reported that they had experienced a form of assault, including sexual harassment, at least once in their lifetime.
  • Nearly half of men, 48 percent, and 81 percent of women reported encountering verbal sexual harassment.
  • Nearly half of women (44 percent) and approximately one in three men (31 percent) reported being the victim of unwanted sexual touching.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted a study in 2016 regarding the nation’s rate of workplace sexual harassment. This report included data about the amount of sexual harassment in workplaces across the country that go unreported.

Approximately 87 to 94 percent of individuals did not end up filing a formal complaint about their abuse experience. Specifically, sexual touching that was unwanted was only formally reported 8 percent of the time.

Another survey concluded that 16 percent of the women surveyed did not believe they’d ever experienced workplace sexual harassment but confirmed encountering sexually explicit or sexist remarks, implying that this portion of women did not know they were harassed or did not consider the actions to be harassment.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics Over the Years

The EEOC’s 2022 report shows findings from a total of 98,411 claims of workplace harassment. Of those claims, 27,291 were specifically sexual harassment. This means sexual harassment claims account for almost 28 percent of all the complaints sent to the EEOC between 2018 and 2021.

Of those sexual harassment cases, 78 percent were sent in by women. Sexual harassment claims were frequently associated with retaliation claims– nearly 44 percent of sexual harassment charges were filed concurrently with a retaliation charge.

The report by GEH found that of the people who reported suffering sexual harassment, 36 percent of women and 28 percent of men specified that their abuse occurred at their workplace, including during a temporary job or internship.

The EEOC’s report analyzing data from 2010 to 2022 shows the agency received an average of 12,194 cases a year alleging an instance of sex-based harassment, which includes sexual harassment and discrimination against one’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Of those cases, an average of 7,016 claims specifically cited an element of sexual harassment, making up almost 58 percent of the average rate of sex-based charges.


Q: How Common Is Workplace Sexual Assault in California?

A: One California study found that 28 percent of men and 36 percent of women who reported experiencing sexual harassment stated it took place in a work environment. Data from the EEOC reports that California annually sees an average of 427 cases of sexual harassment in the workplace that are reported to their agency, based on data from 1997 to 2022. Unfortunately, workplace sexual assault is far too common and should be addressed if it occurs.

Q: At What Age Is Workplace Sexual Harassment Most Common?

A: Research indicates sexual harassment is most common among younger people. One survey found 64 percent of women who reported encountering sexual harassment were aged between 19 and 29 years old.

Other research from 2023 reported that 60 percent of general workplace violence was experienced by young workers aged from 14 to 24. 53 percent of those cases involved intimidating verbal abuse, and up to 24 percent of the claims involved sexual harassment; these were the two most prevalent forms of abuse.

Q: How Many Cases of Workplace Sexual Harassment Are Filed Each Year?

A: The average number of sexual harassment cases reported to the EEOC between the years 2010 and 2022 was 7,016. According to data from 1997 to 2022, compiled by the EEOC, California experiences an average of 427 claims a year of sexual harassment in the workplace; this data includes reports from both men and women.

Q: What Percentage of Workplace Harassment Goes Unreported?

A: Research found over a third of California’s population reported suffering some form of sexual harassment/assault. However, less than five percent of people have ever been accused of such misconduct, either formally or informally.

One 2015 survey reported that only 29 percent of women reported their sexual harassment experience, and only 15 percent of those women thought their claim was justly handled. In 2016, the EEOC reported that approximately 90 percent of sexual misconduct was unreported through an official complaint.

Don’t Take It in Stride Silently, Enlist a Lawyer in Helping Your Voice Be Heard

Sexual harassment lawyers at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III will work diligently on your case to ensure your rights are protected, you are compensated for your unpleasant experience, and that unacceptable behavior will no longer be a part of your work environment. Schedule a consultation with us today.