If you are a woman in the workforce, chances are that you or someone you’ve worked with has been or will be a victim of sexual harassment. According to a 2016 study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), one in four women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
More alarmingly, 75% percent of these victims never file a complaint with their companies. With so many women experiencing sexual harassment on the job, it begs the question: “Why don’t more women come forward?” The answer isn’t simple, but here are some of the most common reasons women are hesitant to report sexual harassment in the workplace:
1. Lack of faith in HR
A company’s Human Resources department doesn’t work for the employees; its role is to reduce liability for management and the company. If the abuser is a high-level employee, HR may even report directly to the abuser, increasing the likelihood that the victim will feel unsafe reporting the incident.
2. Fear of jeopardizing their career
Many women worry that reporting incidents to HR could put them at risk for retaliation, such as losing their jobs and sources of income. Others believe that making complaints could prevent them from achieving their career goals, especially when their harassers hold higher positions within the company.
3. The problem is ingrained in company culture
When the owners or managers of a company regularly exhibit inappropriate behavior themselves, victims often assume – or are told – that this behavior is normal. In these environments, many employees feel that reporting inappropriate behavior will be futile and will not lead to any meaningful change.
4. HR mishandles sexual harassment claims
Unfortunately, just because an employee reports sexual harassment, that does not guarantee that the abuser will face consequences. HR often tells women who speak up that they are overreacting, or they do nothing to remedy the situation. According to one report, 80% of employees who filed a sexual harassment claim said that their situations did not change, while 16% said that reporting the issue to a supervisor made things worse.
No one should have to endure sexual harassment due to fear of negative consequences. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you should speak with an employment attorney about your rights.