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The sexual harassment of flight attendants

Most people probably think that the rampant sexualization of airline workers went out around the time “flight attendant” replaced the term “stewardess.”

Unfortunately, flight attendants are frequently targeted for sexual harassment even today. In fact, 68 percent of flight attendants say that they have experienced sexual harassment from passengers several times in their careers.

For anyone who gives flight attendants their proper respect as first responders in the event of an airborne emergency, this kind of offensive treatment may seem shocking. However, it tends to go back to the days when the airlines heavily promoted the idea of the “sexy stewardess” in their ad campaigns. Some passengers seem to be stuck with their minds in the past — and they feel free to take liberties.

What sort of sexual harassment do airline attendants have to endure on a regular basis? Problems include:

  • Offensive comments of a sexual nature
  • Being propositioned for dates or sexual encounters
  • Being told a passenger’s sexually-explicit fantasies
  • Requests for explicit videos and photos
  • Being asked details of their own sexual encounters
  • Being grabbed or groped by passengers as they pass in the aisles
  • Passengers that attempt to hug or kiss them

It’s a mistake, however, to think that harassment is directed solely toward female flight attendants. Some male flight attendants are treated just as badly as their female colleagues.

Most flight attendants don’t report the harassment and abuse to their employers — probably because they feel that nothing will be done. Of those who have reported the abuse, 68 percent say that their employers failed to take action.

Employers have a responsibility to provide a harassment-free workplace. That means making certain that customers who cross the line are handled appropriately through bans and other means of control. Until that happens, the abuse is likely to continue.

If you work in any job that exposes you to sexual abuse and harassment from customers, report the problem to your employer. If your employer still refuses to step in, you may want to consider your legal options for holding them accountable.

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