Efficient Deterrence of Workplace Sexual Harassment

26 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019

See all articles by Joni Hersch

Joni Hersch

Vanderbilt University - Law School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 4, 2019


Although sexual harassment imposes costs on both victims and organizations, it is also costly for organizations to reduce sexual harassment. Legislation, education, training, and litigation have all been unsuccessful in eradicating workplace sexual harassment. My proposal is to establish financial incentives of sufficient magnitude to incentivize organizations to eliminate sexual harassment. The key challenge is in monetizing the harm caused by sexual harassment. I propose a new approach that draws on my research, which calculated the risk of sexual harassment by gender, industry, and age based on charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Using these risk measures, I established that workers receive a hazard pay premium for exposure to risk of sexual harassment. This premium reflects the higher pay workers need to work in a more hostile work environment and monetizes the aggregate societal evaluation of exposure to risk of an abhorred workplace behavior. Using my estimates of the pay premium, I calculate a value that I refer to as the “value of statistical harassment” (VSH). This amount is $7.6 million, far greater than the current federal cap of $300,000 for the largest firms. Raising the damages cap on awards to this level would provide organizations with the necessary financial incentive for efficient deterrence.

Keywords: sexual harassment, job risks, compensating differentials, gender discrimination, value of statistical life, deterrence, #MeToo, equity, corporate culture

JEL Classification: J3, J7, K4, D63, J28, M14

Suggested Citation

Hersch, Joni, Efficient Deterrence of Workplace Sexual Harassment (May 4, 2019). University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming, Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 19-18, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3397217

Joni Hersch (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7717 (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/bio/?pid=joni-hersch

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

HOME PAGE: http://business.vanderbilt.edu/bio/joni-hersch/

Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States

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