Paying Today and Tomorrow: Charting the Financial Costs of Workplace Sexual Harassment


July 2021

Sexual harassment in the workplace remains pervasive: up to 85% of women will experience workplace sexual harassment over the course of their careers. As employers rethink how their workplaces will operate — whether remotely or in the office — we must ensure that workplaces are safe, dignified, and equitable for everyone.

Although current research has focused on the financial and reputational consequences for employers, little research has been done to identify the financial and economic tolls that sexual harassment takes on survivors themselves. To fill this gap in research, TIME’S UP Foundation and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research have released a new report, “Paying Today and Tomorrow: Charting the Financial Costs of Workplace Sexual Harassment.” This report is the first-ever attempt to quantify the lifetime financial cost of sexual harassment to individual women.

The new report provides a snapshot of the financial costs and economic consequences of workplace sexual harassment, which can cost individuals anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1.3 million over a lifetime. The findings show that sexual harassment contributes to the gender wage gap, limits women’s earning potential, and imposes profound and long-lasting financial damage.

Key Findings

Using economic analysis informed by interviews, the report provides a snapshot of the large financial costs and economic consequences that workplace sexual harassment has on those who experience it. Among its findings, the report shows that:

  • Workplace sexual harassment can cost individuals anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1.3 million over a lifetime.
  • Sexual harassment contributes to the gender wage gap and limits women’s earning potential.
  • Costs of sexual harassment can include job loss and unemployment, lower earnings, missed opportunities for advancement, forced job changes, and loss of critical employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance and pension contributions.
  • Sexual harassment imposes profound and long-lasting financial damage on individuals.
  • The short- and long-term impact on the economic security of those working in low-wage jobs can be particularly severe.
  • Factors like immigration status, lack of funds, or lack of information about worker rights keep individuals from seeking legal advice.
  • Failure to act and retaliation by those in positions of power — such as supervisors, human resources, and colleagues — magnify the costs and impact of harassment.

Current policies designed to prevent workplace sexual harassment are crucial, but fall short often due to a lack of enforcement. The following prevention and accountability policies are necessary first steps to reduce the costs of harassment:

  • Mandatory anti-harassment training;
  • Better anti-harassment policies and accountability;
  • Employee climate surveys to detect and prevent harassment;
  • Ending the use of mandatory nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in harassment lawsuit settlements; and
  • Extending the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims.