Report: Sexual Harassment, Rarely Reported, Knows No Occupational Bounds

In mid-2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s sexual harassment task force released a report revealing some troubling findings:

  • One-third of complaints to EEOC during fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment, including on the basis of sex.
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $165 million that year from companies where workplace harassment persisted.
  • Much of the current training methods are ineffective at prevention, as they focus mostly on sidestepping legal liability for workplace harassment. woman

Sexual harassment in particular is a serious concern – and a pervasive one. 

Recently, ABC News gathered a group of 10 women from 10 different industries – from finance to media to restaurant to retail – and different regions of the country. When asked how many of them had been sexually harassed over the course of their career, every single one raised her hand. Most kept their hands raised when asked whether they had experienced workplace sexual harassment more than twice. Many continued to keep their hands raised when asked whether they had experienced it more than three times and also more than four. However, only two kept their hands raised when asked whether they reported it.

That gives a glimpse (albeit a non-scientific one) into just how common this problem is. According to the EEOC, 6,822 of the claims filed in 2015 were for sexual harassment. Interestingly, 17 percent were filed by males. States that had the highest percentage of overall claims for sexual harassment:

  • Texas – 11 percent
  • Florida – 7.9 percent
  • California – 6.6 percent
  • Georgia – 6.1 percent
  • Illinois – 5 percent

Women in the ABC focus group said of their decision not to report that they felt that doing so would not only be uncomfortable, they feared it would negatively affect their career. Women spoke of “silencing myself.”

Another thing to consider is that oftentimes, victims of sexual harassment may not recognize it as such. For example, gender-based put-downs are one form of sexual harassment that may involve crude language or demeaning comments. It can make women feel like they are working in a hostile environment, but they don’t recognize it as sexual harassment because there may not be a direct proposition for sexual favors or specific remarks about her in particular. But sexual harassment is less about sex and more about power.

An additional problem is the perception that a complaint about unwanted sexual advances would result in a woman being labeled, “too emotional.” On top of that, bystanders are either complacent or oblivious or afraid to intervene.

Job-related sexual harassment isn’t something that is going to just magically end on its own. It requires that company leadership invest in training and prevention, empower workers to come forward if they feel they have been targeted and to educate co-workers to know when to intervene and how. This benefits not just women but the entire workforce because a company that promotes civility and respect for all its workers is one that is going to ultimately be more productive.

The EEOC recommends that sexual harassment victims take the following steps:

  • Document and record any comments or treatment that may be considered sexual harassment. Include the date, time, place and any witnesses.
  • Report the harassment by following your company’s sexual harassment policy.
  • File a complaint with the EEOC within 180 to 300 days (depending on your state) if your employer fails to address the situation. You are entitled to protection from workplace retaliation.

An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help you navigate this process.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Real Women on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Dec. 1, 2016, By Kaitlyn Folmer, ABC News

More Blog Entries:

Sexual Harassment Complaints Plague National Park Service, Nov. 21, 2016, Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog