Study: Most Flight Attendants Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

Illinois sexual harassment attorneysFor those who travel by air regularly, a team of attentive flight attendants may make each trip a more enjoyable experience. The flight attendants themselves enjoy some pretty nice perks, such as the ability to travel the world. Unfortunately, however, flight attendants are also subject to instances of sexual harassment—behaviors that have been described as “rampant” throughout the airline industry.

A Troubling Study

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) recently conducted a survey of more than 3,570 flight attendants from 29 U.S. based airlines. The study’s participants were 80 percent women and 20 percent men, which is consistent with the gender distribution for flight attendants nationwide. The survey found that 68 percent—more than two-thirds—of the respondents have experienced some type of sexual harassment during their careers as cabin crew members.

Nearly 35 percent of the participants said that they experienced sexual harassment of a verbal nature. Of that number, nearly 70 percent said that the verbal harassment has occurred at least three times in the past year.

While verbal harassment should not be tolerated, 18 percent of the survey’s respondents said that they have been physically harassed by a passenger in the last year. More than 40 percent of those reported that the physical harassment happened at least three times.

Lack of Reporting

Perhaps the most alarming number to come out of the study is the mere 7 percent who said that they reported instances of sexual harassment to their employers. Experts suggest that there may be several reasons for flight attendants not filing reports. First, not all of the sexual harassment is perpetrated by passengers. A recent article in Cosmopolitan highlighted numerous accounts of flight attendant sexual harassment alleged against pilots and other airline employees. Victims are often afraid to come forward because pilots have the power to remove an attendant from a flight for virtually any reason—and flight attendants who do not fly do not get paid.

The study also found that 68 percent of respondents say that they have not noticed any efforts by the airlines to address the problem of sexual harassment. Even in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, flight attendants largely feel that little is being done to protect them both in the air and on the ground.

Taking Action

Some American-based airlines have refuted these claims. Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines said they have added training for employees to help protect flight attendants and passengers. Other airlines have communicated with their employees in recent months to condemn workplace sexual harassment.

There is, however, no national standard—or inter-airline policies—to address a passenger who harasses members of the cabin crew. Alaska Airlines, for example, banned a passenger from using its services earlier this year after allegations that the passenger inappropriately touched a flight attendant. While the passenger claimed the allegations were unfounded, he could still book a flight on virtually any other airline without a problem.

We Can Help

If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, it is important to report the behavior so that it can be stopped. Contact an experienced Illinois sexual harassment attorney to get the help you need. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law today.



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