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3 reasons why employees fail to report workplace harassment

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2021 | Workplace Discrimination |

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. However, it is something common in the United States. According to official data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 24,221 people filed a sexual harassment claim in 2020. However, the number of people who fail to report harassment may be far more significant, as most victims are afraid to exercise their rights for three main reasons.

They don’t know their rights

Some employees experience sexual harassment without even knowing it. Employers are supposed to inform their employees about this problem and its solution through the company’s policies. Still, some fail to do this, resulting in employees not knowing about their rights.

According to federal and state laws, workplace harassment is forbidden. Employees who suffer from it can file a complaint with the EEOC to stop it. If the employer refuses to fix the problem, the EEOC or the victim can take their case the court and sue the employer for damages.

They think they don’t have a case

Some employees know they can file a harassment claim, but they don’t do so because they don’t know if they have a valid case. A common misunderstanding is that a person can only file a claim if the harassment is aggressive or extreme, but that is not true. The EEOC considers harassment as any unwelcome conduct against a person based on their race, religion, sex, etc. Concrete actions that constitute harassment are:

  • Offensive jokes or slurs
  • Pressure for dates or sexual favors
  • Unwelcome comments about a person’s religion, race or sex
  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Physical assault
  • Threats
  • Ridicule or mockery
  • Intimidation

Petty slights or an isolated accident (unless extreme) may not arise to the level of illegality. For a harassment claim to be valid, you must prove that enduring the offense has become a condition of your employment or that the offense is severe enough to cause a hostile work environment.

They fear retaliation

The third common reason employees fail to file a complaint with the EEOC is that they fear that their employer will take revenge on them. Under the law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a claim or helping the EEOC with an investigation. If an employer does this, they are subject to a lawsuit from the EEOC. Actions that constitute retaliation include firing an employee, denying them benefits or lowering their salary.

Taking action

If you are a victim of workplace harassment, you can put a stop to it without suffering any negative consequences. You should first talk to your employer about the problem. They are supposed to fix the situation, but you can file a complaint against them with the EEOC if they don’t. You have the power to stop this unacceptable behavior and, if necessary, you can do justice in court.

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