(Bloomberg) -- More than two-thirds of flight attendants in the U.S. report experiencing verbal or physical sexual harassment during their careers, according to a study released Thursday by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
About 35 percent of flight attendants taking part in the survey said they experienced verbal sexual harassment, including lewd, suggestive and inappropriate comments, in the past year alone. Eighteen percent were physically harassed during the same period, reporting that they were “touched, felt, pulled, grabbed, groped, slapped, rubbed and fondled,” on top of and under their uniforms, AFA said.
Beyond its impact on the individual, such abuse threatens passengers’ safety by undermining flight attendants’ authority in emergencies and making it harder for them to intervene in disputes between passengers, the union said. The AFA called on the U.S. airline industry to take steps to combat such harassment and acknowledge how the behavior can affect safety.
Sixty-eight percent of the 3,500 flight attendants who took part in the survey said they have seen no efforts by airlines to address workplace sexual harassment in the past year, and only 7 percent have reported such abuse. The study included employees of 29 U.S. airlines.
“Harassment of flight attendants is legendary, but this survey shows just how commonplace it remains, even during the #MeToo era,” Sara Nelson, the AFA president, said in a statement. “It’s time for all of us -- airlines, unions, regulators, legislators and passengers -- to put a stop to behaviors that can no longer be condoned. The dignity and well-being of flight attendants and the safety of all travelers depend on it.”
U.S. carriers take such matters seriously “and do not tolerate harassment in any form,” Airlines for America, an industry group, said in an emailed statement. Well-defined processes exist for crew members to report on-board criminal activity to U.S. regulators and law enforcement agencies, it said.
“Airlines strive to make sure every employee has a safe working environment and disruptive or inappropriate behavior towards crew or passengers is dealt with as promptly as possible,” the group said.
United Continental Holdings Inc., Spirit Airlines Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. have worked with the union on stopping such behavior in the industry, the AFA said.
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