Workplace harassment has a severe impact on workers. It can affect your mental, physical and economic health. People are trying to do the right thing, but they sometimes face retaliation for reporting harassment at work.
In the three years since the #MeToo movement took off, people have become more aware of sexual harassment and its consequences to workers. But a new study found that as many as 70% of those who report sexual harassment face some form of employer retaliation.
The study was performed by the National Women’s Law Center. The group analyzed over 3,300 online requests for legal advice that were filed with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund between January 2018 and April 2020. The National Women’s Law Center administers that fund, which connects victims of sexual harassment with legal assistance and helps to defray their costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making things harder. Already, victims faced the possibility of retaliation, including job loss, a drop in pay, loss of shifts and even industry blacklisting. Now, with unemployment high and jobs disappearing, people are even more afraid to report and face the possibility of retaliation.
Power dynamics, lack of accountability still major factors
The study also found that, 56% the time, the harasser was someone they reported to. And 37% of those requesting help said nothing had happened to their harasser after their complaint.
“When you have a huge power differential there is more likely to be harassment,” says the administrator of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. “Because of all the economic stressors, COVID-19 increases the power a supervisor can have, because people are so much closer to the edge, and much more willing to put up with things in order to keep a job.”
Other findings on retaliation
The retaliation people experience is real and profound. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a report which found that three-quarters of those experiencing harassment never reported it. The reason? “Because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.”
The National Women’s Law Center study found that 36% of those who reported harassment got fired. Another 19% said they received a poor performance evaluation or suffered other repercussions at work.
The law cannot be enforced when retaliation and lack of accountability are the norm. Before you risk your career, talk to an employment law attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you collect evidence and ensure your complaint is as complete and persuasive as possible while minimizing the potential for retaliation.