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Why does sexual harassment at work go unreported?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2023 | Employment Law

Workplace discrimination is one of the leading factors that can affect a person’s career. The Civil Rights Department in California (even more than federal law) protects employees from all types of discrimination, including sexual harassment. 

Unfortunately, some employees still experience sexual harassment from colleagues and bosses – and that harassment often goes unreported. Why? Here are 3 reasons:

1. It can be subtle

Sexual harassment can be a subtle physical or verbal behavior. For instance, someone at the office may make a sexual joke that makes another uncomfortable. If other people around laugh, they may feel like they are overreacting by taking offense and won’t report it.

Further, some actions can be disguised as accidents. For example, if an employee keeps blocking the way of their colleague, acting like it’s an accident or “accidentally” touching them in more than one instance.

If you are uncomfortable with any physical or verbal interaction, it will help to take action – obtain more information about the experience to make the correct judgment.

2. There’s fear of retaliation

Even though it’s unlawful, some workplaces still retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment, especially when the offender is a senior. Examples of retaliation actions include: 

  • Demotion 
  • Transfer to an unfavorable location/department 
  • Exclusion from projects 
  • Salary reduction 
  • Termination

Retaliation is illegal, but many people do fear it – but that can give rise to additional legal actions.

3. They have embarrassment or shame

The work environment may change for people who report sexual harassment. One can experience shame or embarrassment. Luckily, this is changing with time. People who report are now viewed as courageous – and they give other people the strength to come forward.  

It will be best to report sexual harassment sooner to stop inappropriate behavior. With legal guidance, you should protect your rights.