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Why Don’t More People Report Sexual Harassment?

BullhornSexual Harassment Reporting

If you’ve been harassed in the workplace but decided not to report the incident, you aren’t alone. It’s impossible to know exactly how common sexual harassment is because so many people fail to speak out.

Even in workplace environments where people make safety and personal comfort a priority, sexual harassment goes underreported. There are many different reasons for this.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) estimates that three-fourths of all people who are harassed in the workplace don’t file a complaint. Many of these people report not wanting to be viewed as a victim or as someone looking for attention as their reason for not reporting. Others don’t want to endure further humiliation, waste time, or deal with the negative consequences they fear that might come from filing a report.

And despite the vast majority of organizations that have instituted anti-sexual harassment policies, harassment remains an issue in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is not the only problem either.

Some people are reluctant to report what has happened to them because they fear they’ll be harassed further. They’ve seen other people endure alienation and don’t trust their human resources departments. Employees understand that HR works for the company and might themselves report to the perpetrator of the harassment.

In other cases, the company culture is one of harassment. If the problem is systemic and harassment is accepted as the norm in the company, there’s very little that can be done by reporting harassment internally.

Knowing that HR can be an issue, some companies have made efforts to change how things work. Some have even offered bonuses to HR representatives for handling harassment properly or for encouraging employees to report harassment.

Others have sought third-party assistance in dealing with harassment, knowing that the only way to resolve the issue is to find neutral parties with nothing to lose. There is usually no conflict of interest when an outsider conducts a harassment audit of a business.

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to federal laws protecting employees, the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City’s Human Rights and the Stop Sexual Harassment Laws also address sexual harassment. You can learn more about the harassment guidelines NYC has in place here.

It’s also important for everyone in a company to be on the same page concerning harassment and how it should be dealt with. Examples of sexual harassment that should be cause for discipline in the workplace include:

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Invasion of privacy\
  • Exposure
  • Sharing graphic images
  • Sexual jokes
  • Unwelcome sexual emails, phone calls, or texts
  • Sexual bribery or coercion
  • Overt requests for sex
  • Sexual favoritism
  • Being offered a sexual favor
  • Denial of raises, promotions, or benefits because of refusal to cooperate with sexual request
  • Sexual assault

Though there are plenty of instances in which someone commits sexual harassment because he or she “didn’t know better,” there are also intentional assaults that occur. In some cases, what began subtlety escalates into something more violent. That’s another reason why it’s so important to deal with harassment when it occurs.

Employers need to ensure that employees and HR departments understand what sexual harassment is and know what is acceptable and what is not in the workplace. That way nobody can claim ignorance and mistakes can be avoided.

If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or you have questions about something that occurred in the workplace and you think it might be harassment, we can help. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.


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