While it is generally known that workplace harassment, including sexual harassment in the workplace, is illegal, it is still a common experience that many workers have. A 2018 study found that 81 percent of female workers and 43 percent of male workers have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
Part of the problem is that companies can make it very difficult or even impossible for workers to report incidents of sexual harassment in a safe way. In many cases, workers may fear retaliation in the form of losing their jobs or losing hours. For these companies, the number of reported complaints may be very small as a result. It is important to note, however, that a small number of reports does not mean that workplace sexual harassment or discrimination is not happening.
Employers can get accurate insights into their workplace culture and the frequency of sexual harassment incidents by using formal assessments and surveys. Some companies use weekly pulse surveys, which allow employees to answer one question every week. Sharing the data with employees can help earn trust as it shows that employers are listening. Employers should then work to make improvement in areas that could result in an increase in employee safety and happiness.
When employees do not feel safe in their environment, that fear could translate into poor work performance and anxiety. Employers are responsible for creating a safe and healthy workplace environment, so failing to deal with workplace harassment and sexual harassment can have serious consequences. An employment rights attorney may represent an employee who reported an incident of sexual harassment and was retaliated against or terminated as a result of making that report. Depending on the circumstances, the attorney may help seek back pay and any benefits that were lost due to employer retaliation.