“Sexual harassment can have traumatic consequences for those affected – that's why employers are obliged to protect their employees,” said anti-discrimination chief Christine Lüders.
“The fact that employees know so little about their rights is unsustainable,” she added.
The number of people who have actually felt themselves to be sexually harassed at work was 17 percent for women and seven percent for men.
But almost half of men and 39 percent of women felt they had experienced double-entendres or sexual jokes, while 30 percent of men and 22 percent of women reported sexual remarks.
Men more often perpetrators
Many more women than men – 19 percent compared with 12 percent – reported being physically harassed, by colleagues getting too close or touching them, and they were a higher proportion of victims of unwanted hugs and kisses, too, at 13 percent versus 10 percent.
Men were generally the perpetrators of harassment, with 67 percent of female and 75 percent of male victims reporting that they had felt harassed by men.
And more than twice as many female as male targets of harassment reported that they had been harassed by managers, at 31 percent compared with 14 percent.
Unaware of rights
The survey also revealed that Germans are surprisingly unaware of their workplace rights in relation to harassment.
Only one in every five is aware that they are legally entitled to expect their employer to protect them from sexual harassment.
And just two in five respondents knew that their companies had taken steps to stop the problem.
Even human resources workers and workers' committee members were ill-informed, with 60 percent unaware of any steps in their company to fight sexual harassment.
Year of awareness
The survey was commissioned to mark the beginning of a “theme year” titled “Same law, every gender,” organized by the anti-discrimination office.
A commission headed by former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and president of the Berlin Centre for Social Research (WZB) Professor Jutta Allmendinger will try to find ways to improve equal treatment in Germany.
“Same law, every gender – that hasn't been true for women, but also for transgender and intersex people for a long time,” Allmendinger said.
“As well as harassment, the commission will deal with women in precarious or illegal employment and the forms of disadvantage faced by transgender and intersex people in the workplace.
“Our common goal must be to realize truly the same rights for everyone – from the cleaning lady to the manager.”