Why Workers Fail to Report Sexual Harassment

| Blog

Studies show that millions of people suffer sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet few people report it. Below, we look at the most common reasons and encourage you to contact Premier Law Group if you suffer from harassment.

Fear of Retaliation from Their Boss

People need jobs. And they will do almost anything to keep them. Sometimes, workers stay silent about sexual harassment because they fear getting fired.

That fear is well-founded. We hear from many workers who complain about sexual harassment only to end up on the unemployment line shortly after that. The risk of termination is high if the harasser is your boss or someone else in management.

The excellent news is that laws protect workers from retaliation. Your boss cannot fire you if you complain about sexual harassment you have suffered or even observed happening to someone else. Call Premier Law Group if you are nonetheless dismissed after complaining.

Fear of Retaliation from Coworkers

A whistleblower can face retaliation from coworkers as well. They might mock, belittle, or comment sarcastically about you in person or on social media. Other coworkers might subject a whistleblower to the silent treatment or refuse to socialize inside or outside work.

Unlike retaliation from a boss, the law provides fewer remedies against coworkers. After all, they have a First Amendment right not to talk to you if they don’t want to. Nonetheless, many workers fear any kind of pushback from their colleagues if others like the harasser.

Bystander Effect

The bystander effect describes why people who witness something happen don’t act to stop it. As a bystander in a group, you might witness someone getting harassed. You might not report it because you assume that one of the other witnesses will complain to Human Resources, relieving you of the obligation.

Some bystanders don’t want to get involved out of fear that unwanted attention will be directed at them. So, they keep silent to protect themselves.

Confusion about How to Report

Your company should have a grievance process in place to complain about harassment, but the process is unclear in many workplaces. In smaller offices, the person harassing you might even be the one you are supposed to complain to.

Some workers feel overwhelmed and stay silent, hoping the negative attention will pass. That’s a mistake. If a colleague is harassing you, you must notify your employer. If you don’t, it’s much harder to hold them responsible for the harassment in a lawsuit.

Initial Participation

Some people fear reporting harassment because they initially participated in teasing or flirting. Maybe a colleague made a sexual joke, and you laughed before making a joke. No harm, no foul, right?

But then your colleague gropes you or kisses you without your consent. That is harassing conduct. Nonetheless, some workers fear reporting this harassment because they think they gave their harasser a green light based on the earlier conduct.

Call Premier Law Group

Our firm can meet for a confidential consultation to discuss the harassment you are suffering. Both state and federal laws give you the right to sue for harassment, and we can explain the process in more detail.