In the three years since the #MeToo movement began in October of 2017, there’s been heightened awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace and an increased willingness by victims to file complaints. However, a new study finds that approximately 75% of employees who report workplace sexual harassment face retaliation in the form of termination, being denied raises and promotions, being sued for defamation, etc.
For the study, the National Women’s Law Center analyzed 3,317 online requests for assistance from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, an organization launched in 2018 to help under-privileged employees bring their complaints of sexual harassment to court.
Unlawful workplace behavior
Both New York and federal law prohibit sexual harassment as well as retaliation against employees who report sexual harassment.
“Retaliation takes all different forms,” Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time’s Up fund, told the Associated Press. “Losing your job, losing shifts, losing pay – or if you’ve already lost your job, you can’t find another job in that industry.”
She said the pandemic has further complicated sexual harassment reporting. With high unemployment, “people are afraid of reporting and afraid of being retaliated against,” Tejani explained.
Looking inside the study
Some notable findings by the study include:
- Of those who reported sexual harassment, 29% said nothing was done about the problem.
- Of those who experienced retaliation, 36% reported that they were fired, while 19% said they received poor job performance evaluations or other negative treatment.
- More than one in five said that workplace sexual harassment had a negative impact on their economic well-being.
- Nearly one in five reported that the harassment had a negative impact on their mental health.
- More than one in four said that the harassment they experienced wasn’t an isolated incident, and 21% said the perpetrator harassed multiple victims.
- More than half of those who identified their harasser said it was a supervisor or manager.
Holding harassers accountable
Although sexual harassment remains a prevalent issue, as this recent study shows, one positive development is that more victims of sexual harassment are coming forward. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of progress that must be made in order to ensure that employees feel safe in their workplaces around the country. Among other things, perpetrators must be held responsible, and victims of sexual harassment must not face any negative consequences for reporting the harassment.