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Workplace Regulation of Sexual Harassment and Federal and State-Level Legal Environments

Research in the Sociology of Work

ISBN: 978-1-78635-406-8, eISBN: 978-1-78635-405-1

Publication date: 19 August 2016


This study investigates how federal and state-level laws designed to reduce workplace sexual harassment relate to the content of sexual harassment training programs in a sample of private U.S. companies. To gauge the effect of the law on the regulation of sexual harassment, we draw on unique data containing information on federal and state-level legal environments, formal discrimination charges filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and establishment-level sexual harassment training initiatives. State-level legal regulation of sexual harassment at work is linked to more elaborate sexual harassment training programs, even when federal legal regulations are not. Our findings underscore the importance of state-level legal regimes in the workplace regulation of gender-based rights and provide an example for future studies of work inequality and the law.




We wish to thank Ronald Edwards and Bliss Cartwright at the U.S. EEOC’s Office of Research for supplying data and statistical coding files and Steve Vallas and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2014 American Sociological Association meetings in San Francisco. We also acknowledge the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington for data support. This work was supported by a Washington State University College of Liberal Arts Berry Family Fellowship; a grant from Cornell University’s Institute for the Social Sciences; and a SSHRC Standard Research Grant [grant number 410-2011-0559].


Kmec, J.A., Hirsh, C.E. and Skaggs, S. (2016), "Workplace Regulation of Sexual Harassment and Federal and State-Level Legal Environments", Research in the Sociology of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 215-240.



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