Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It is illegal under federal law to sexually harass an employee or job applicant. Sexual harassment is unfortunately prevalent both in and out of the workplace, and can affect all types of people. When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is responsible for handling sexual harassment claims in the United States and enforcing federal law.

A recent analysis of U.S. workplace sexual harassment claims, using data from both the EEOC as well as a variety of other sources, examined the industries with the most sexual harassment reports. Of course we can’t know for sure if these are truly the top industries for sexual harassment, due to the many incidents that go unreported. However, based on a combination of data, it appears that the most sexual harassment claims come from the following four industries.

Restaurants & Hospitality

The EEOC reports that the top two industries for sexual harassment charges are accommodation and food services, and retail trade, making up around 25% of all reports. The following are statistics from those industries.

  • 75% of victims report experiencing some type of retaliation after reporting sexual harassment.
  • 14% of sexual harassment claims filed are made by women in the leisure and hospitality industries.
  • 90% of women who work in restaurants say they encounter being hit on, and half of these say it happens to them on a weekly basis.
  • 70% of men in the restaurant industry report experiencing some type of sexual harassment.
  • Tipped workers who earn a $2.13 subminimum wage are twice as likely to report sexual harassment as tipped workers who earn a guaranteed wage.
  • 34% of women who formerly worked as tipped workers quit their jobs because they were experiencing unwanted sexual harassment in the workplace.


11.48% of EEOC sexual harassment reports come from the healthcare and social assistance industry. Below is some data about sexual harassment in the nursing industry.

  • 60% of nurses say they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, however, only 27% of them reported it to their employer.
  • 39% of nurses say they have witnessed a colleague being harassed at work.

Sexual Harassment by Gender of Nurse

  • 62% of female nurses and 51% of male nurses say they have experienced sexual harassment.
  • Only 17% of male nurses report sexual harassment to management, compared to 29% of female nurses that report sexual harassment.

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Nursing Industry

  • 56% of nurses experience verbal harassment, 37% say they experience physical harassment, and 29% experience visual harassment (i.e., winking or other inappropriate gestures).
  • 58% of nurses have been harassed by a patient.
  • 26% of nurses are harassed by medical colleagues, and 24% are harassed by nursing colleagues.
  • 19% of nurses report harassment from patients’ families or friends.


Many who study and work in academics are no stranger to sexual harassment. Prevalence in the academia industry could be due to its hierarchical power structure, as well as gender imbalance and unclear or unenforced policies.

  • 58% of those in the academic workplace (students, faculty, and staff) experience sexual harassment.
  • 30-40% of students who experience sexual harassment have developed mental health problems.
  • Women, ages 18-24 who are enrolled in college, are 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other group of women.

One survey of college students regarding reporting sexual harassment found:

  • 12% of college students report harassment
  • 56% of students who were harassed didn’t report it because they didn’t see it as a “big deal”
  • 22% didn’t want to report and bring negative attention to themselves
  • 7% didn’t think reporting it would help
  • 7% were afraid of retaliation
  • 2% didn’t want the harasser to get in trouble

A study conducted by The Pennsylvania State University System revealed that:

  • 19% of undergraduate students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff
  • 20% of graduate students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff

Medical Students

36% of medical students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff.

  • 59% of sexual harassment that graduate students encounter involves sexually offensive language or gestures
  • 6.4% includes unwanted sexual attention
  • 4.7% involved unwanted physical contact or touching
  • 3.5% included subtle or explicit threats or bribes


The military naturally comes with organizational ranks of power, which can unfortunately be taken advantage of. According to reports, 60% of sexual harassment violations are committed by a supervisor or leader. The following are additional statistics about sexual harassment and assault in the military.

Military Sexual Harassment By Gender

  • 41% of women military veterans and 4% of men military veterans report experiencing sexual harassment or assault.
  • Among active duty personnel:
    • 23% of women report sexual harassment and 6.1% report sexual assault
    • 4% of men report sexual harassment and 1.2% report sexual assault

Sexual Assault in the Military

  • Women in the military are almost five times more likely to experience sexual assault than men in the military.
  • ⅓ of those who were sexually assaulted say they were sexually harassed by the offender prior to the assault.
  • 52% of the women who reported a sexual assault experienced some type of retaliation, either social or professional.
  • Almost 50% of women who were deployed to Afghanistan report having been sexually harassed, and about ¼ say they were sexually assaulted.
  • 1.5% of men and 7% of women in the Navy experience sexual assault.