12/05/2014 12:02 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST

Workplace Sexual Harassment Poll: Most People Don't Report Incidents

Michaela Begsteiger via Getty Images

TORONTO - A new poll has found that four out of five respondents who say they were sexually harassed at work did not report it to their employer.

The online poll of more than 1,500 people done by Angus Reid said those who reported harassment offered a number of reasons for not coming forward.

Most said they preferred to handle the problem on their own, while others cited fear their career would suffer, embarrassment or they felt the incident was too minor in nature.

The poll found 28 per cent of the women and men who participated reported unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or sexually charged talk in the past two years.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys can't be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

The issue of workplace harassment has gained prominence since the CBC fired radio host Jian Ghomeshi after a number of women accused him of physical and sexual harassment. He has admitted to engaging in rough sex, but has said the encounters were consensual.

Toronto police recently laid criminal charges including four counts of sexual assault against Ghomeshi after three women came forward alleging physical and sexual harassment.

Ghomeshi's lawyer has said her client will plead not guilty to the charges.

The issue gained further prominence after two female New Democrat members of Parliament accused two Liberal MPs of misconduct and the Liberals were suspended from caucus.

Three quarters of those who took part in the online panel poll said sexual harassment in the workplace should receive far more attention than it does.

The survey defined sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal — non-touching — conduct of a sexual nature.

The results indicated women were four times as likely to be on the receiving end of sexual harassment than men; 43 per cent compared to 12 per cent.

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