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Flight attendants still subjected to sexual harassment

Jobs in the service industries can be particularly challenging. Nevertheless, flight attendants would seem to have it worse than most. Not only do they work in close quarters with customers, there is a long and continuing tradition of objectifying or sexualizing the flight attendant. While the rules for acceptable behavior have changed from the days when flight attendants were called stewardesses, apparently things have not changing fast enough to suit those in the industry.

A new survey with old news

According to a new survey of 3,500 flight attendants conducted by the flight attendants union, more than a third of respondents said they have experienced verbal sexual harassment in the last year. Of that group of respondents, 68 percent said they had experienced it three or more times, while the remaining said they had experienced it five or more times.

Examples of comments included:

  • Propositioning the flight attendant
  • Making lewd comments
  • Sharing sexual fantasies
  • Requesting pornographic pictures or videos

The oft-used comments would include mentions of the "mile high club" or references to how to occupy time during a layover. Some customers would go even further by physically touching, kissing, slapping, hugging and even humping flight attendants.

Men as well as women

It should also be noted that 3,500 survey respondents from 29 airlines included 80 percent women and 20 percent men. "Harassment isn't just a problem faced by women," flight attendant union president Sara Nelson told CNN Money. "I've seen incredible harassment towards my male flying partners."

Airlines taking action

Airlines are taking these matters seriously. For example, the CEOs of Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines have written an open letter in support of flight attendants by denouncing sexual harassment on a plane or in the workplace. As airlines continue to update the employee guidelines and agreements, protection against harassment will no doubt become more clearly outlined with other airlines as well. An attorney with experience in business law and employment law can be helpful to make sure that needs of both the employer and employee is addressed.

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