Workers underreport sexual harassment. In 2015 the American Working Conditions survey asked workers if they had ever been sexually harassed at work. One in 28 said yes. Yet, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says only one in 11,000 workers report sexual harassment to them. That is only 0.25%.
Not all cases need to make it to the EEOC. If an employer can take sufficient action, then an employee may not need to go that far. Yet, often, employers do not make reporting easy.
Why do more people not report when someone harasses them?
Employees do not report sexual harassment for the same reasons many do not report other types of harassment.
- They are unsure of their legal rights. You might know that someone squeezing up against you is disagreeable, but do you do know it is legally unacceptable? Do you know it qualifies as sexual harassment?
- They are unsure how to report it: Who do you tell if someone has harassed you? Do you have to fill out forms? Who else will find out? What if the boss is the friend of the person who harassed you? Can you trust them?
- They fear retaliation: If you have just landed your dream job, are your sure enough of yourself and your rights to know that you can report the CEO for sexually harassing you without it costing you the job? No employer is allowed to take retaliatory action against someone who reports harassment. If they do, you can take legal action against them for it.
There is a lot to understand if you need to report sexual harassment. Seeking help to understand your rights can ease your concerns and help you to end an unacceptable situation.