Sexual harassment is a widespread problem to which we may never truly know its extent. By the end of the federal government’s fiscal year in September 2019, about 7,500 sexual harassment charges were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
That might not sound like much, but it represents more than 10 percent of all charges the EEOC received that year, which isn’t an insignificant portion to be dedicated to sexual harassment claims alone. These are, of course, only charges that the EEOC receives. When an EEOC Select Task Force was assembled to study harassment in the workplace, it found a wide anywhere between 25-85 percent of women said they have experienced sexual harassment at work, even if they didn’t report it.
At best, that means one in four women will experience sexual harassment at work. It begs the question: Why aren’t more victims reporting sexual misconduct at work? There is, of course, no clear catch-all answer – but there are a few that come close to explaining the breadth of reasons why someone wouldn’t come forward.
1. Workers Fear Employer Retaliation
One of the most common reasons why employees are dissuaded from reporting sexual harassment is because they fear what could happen if they do. Retaliating against an employee in any way for reporting such an incident is illegal, but that first requires the employee to be subjected to a termination, demotion, or further harassment, physical violence, and other forms of mistreatment.
Needless to say, employees may fear making their situation “more complicated” by reporting sexual harassment, but this should never hold anyone back from seeking legal assistance from an attorney who cares. Those who engage in sexual harassment are unlikely to stop, and an employer who allows the harassment to persist, or even retaliates against you, must be hold accountable.
2. Employees Worry about Their Career Aspirations
Second to retaliation may be an employee’s concern that they’ll ruin their chances for advancement in a company if they report sexual harassment. Employees may fear that reporting someone’s behavior will mean they’ll get passed over for promotions and blacklisted in their company for any kind of favorable transfer or advancement. There’s no guarantee that an employer who is offended or annoyed by an employee’s sexual harassment report will stagnate their career, but even this may be a legally actionable form of retaliation.
In a worse scenario, an employee may be offered a career advancement in exchange for sexual favors or agreeing to not report sexual harassment. This is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment, and any sort of exchange that an employer or supervisor makes is entirely illegal. Employees should never feel obligated to take such a deal and should instead seek legal assistance from a sexual harassment attorney.
3. Lackluster Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Sometimes people don’t report sexual harassment because they aren’t aware until later – sometimes years later – that the treatment they experienced was abusive or even caused them post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). This can be the result of a company’s deficient sexual harassment training program, which should otherwise clearly define all of the many ways sexual harassment occurs and is illegal.
Many times, employees may be confronted with verbal harassment or something that is neither physical nor verbal, such as a gesture or being exposed to sexually explicit content at work. There are a number of ways in which sexual harassment negatively impacts employees who may not even be aware that the behavior is sexual harassment at all.
4. Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Everyone responds to sexual harassment differently, and it can be a very traumatic experience for many. So much so that those who experience sexual misconduct at work of any kind may develop symptoms of PTSD. When someone is so afflicted by mental stress from PTSD, they may be more focused on avoiding triggers for their trauma than getting legal assistance to make the abuse stop or hold responsible parties accountable.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
Sometimes when people are experiencing sexual harassment at work, they may feel like they need a sign to take serious action. If you are reading this and believe you have been abused by your employer or someone at work, consider this your sign.
At Bailess Smith PLLC, we help clients in West Virginia hold responsible parties accountable for workplace sexual harassment. With our help, you too can seek fair and just compensation in monetary damages and other legal remedies. Learn more about what we can do for you by scheduling a free initial consultation with us today.
Get in touch with Bailess Smith PLLC today by calling (304) 553-0337 or by contacting us online.