Federal employees report sexual harassment as occurring less frequently than in the past, but such harassment “is still occurring, with women more than three times as likely as men” to say they have experienced it, the MSPB has said.

The merit board released preliminary findings on that topic from a survey it conducted last year on perceptions of compliance with merit principles in the federal workplace. In that survey, 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men indicated that they had experienced at least one occasion of sexual harassment in the prior two years. That’s down from 44 and 19 percent, respectively, in a 1994 report that asked many of the same questions, MSPB said.


The most common types of such behaviors include unwelcome sexual teasing, jokes, comments or questions; unwelcome sexually suggestive looks or gestures; and unwelcome invasion of personal space. The latter was the most commonly reported by both women and men in the latest survey, by 12 and 3 percent, but that was down from 24 and 8 percent in the earlier survey.

Teasing and similar behavior meanwhile had been reported by 37 percent of women in 1994 but that fell to 9 percent, while the reported rate of looks and gestures fell from 29 to 9 percent among women. In each survey, the least commonly experienced forms of harassment were pressure of sexual favors or actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, in the 1-2 percent range.

“Although progress has clearly been made in reducing the frequency of sexual harassment, agencies need to continue working to educate employees about their rights and responsibilities in terms of their conduct in the workplace,” MSPB said in a recent publication. “In an upcoming report on sexual harassment, we will delve further into the types and frequency of sexual harassment behaviors, risk factors that appear to increase one’s likelihood for being exposed to harassment, as well as strategies for preventing and addressing sexual harassment.”