Why harassment happens at work: Theoretical developments of the antecedents of sexual harassment

Jennifer L Hurt, Purdue University


The purpose of this research was to examine the antecedents of sexual harassment in the workplace. Two prominent theories, the Illinois model (Fitzgerald, Hulin, & Drasgow, 1996) and Pryor's (1987) Person by Situation Theory, were incorporated into a general model of why sexual harassment happens. Men's perceptions of organizational climate for harassment, men's perceptions of the sexual behavior of other men in a work group, and harassment proclivities of men in the work group were predicted to impact the experience of sexual behaviors by women in the work group. It was hypothesized that harassment proclivities would interact with climate perceptions and perceptions of other's behavior to impact women's experiences. In addition, several factors (called labeling factors) were hypothesized to impact a woman's decision of whether or not she had been sexually harassed, including the status of the perpetrator, the negativity of the experiences, her tolerance for harassment, and the organizational climate for harassment. These hypotheses were tested with a survey distributed to a sample of graduate students. No evidence was found for the predicted interactions of harassment proclivities with men's climate perceptions or with perceptions of other men's behaviors on women's experiences with sexual behaviors. While some evidence indicated harassment decisions were impacted by the labeling factors, these hypotheses were also not supported. The results are discussed both in terms of the implications for understanding sexual harassment, and in terms of measurement of the relevant constructs. ^




Major Professor: Rebecca A. Henry, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations

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