Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By | November 16, 2020

More than seven in 10 people who experienced workplace sex harassment faced some form of retaliation — including termination, being sued for defamation and denial of promotions, according to a recent report. More than half of the workers (56%) who identified their perpetrator said they were harassed by someone they reported to at work and nearly two in five (37%) said that nothing happened to their harasser.

The report, conducted by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), analyzed the experiences of 3,317 requests for legal help submitted to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. This report analyzed cases that came in to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund between Jan. 1, 2018, and April 30, 2020.

Among the report’s findings, more than one-third of people (36%) reporting workplace harassment said they experienced physical harassment, sexual assault or rape. More than one in seven people (15%) were threatened with legal action, with losing their job or even physical harm, if they told anyone about their harassment. More than one in five described how sex harassment had a devastating impact on their economic well-being. Nearly one in five said the harassment had long term negative repercussions on their mental health.

“The findings reveal the courage it takes for people to come forward and report the harassment and abuse they’re experiencing in the workplace,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center and a co-founder of the Fund. “Repeatedly, survivors endured abuse and once they rebuffed advances or reported it, many were fired, careers were destroyed, some became homeless — and too often, harassers got promotions.”

Graves said that until harassers are held accountable, workplaces will remain unsafe for everyone.

A few other report findings include:

  • More than seven in 10 survivors who experienced workplace sexual harassment faced some form of retaliation, including termination, being sued for defamation and denial of promotions.
  • More than seven in 10 people (72%) said they experienced some form of retaliation when they complained about harassment.
  • Of those who experienced retaliation, the most common form mentioned was being fired (36%), followed by 19% who said they received poor performance evaluations, had their work products or behavior scrutinized, or were otherwise treated poorly at work.
  • Individuals are turning first to their employers to report harassment, but employers are failing to take action. Nearly two in three people (64%) reported the harassment to their employer. Of people who reported harassment, nearly three in 10 (29%) said nothing was done about it.

The TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, connects those who experience sexual misconduct in the workplace or in trying to advance their careers with legal assistance.

About Andrea Wells

Andrea Wells is a veteran insurance editor and Editor-in-Chief of Insurance Journal Magazine. More from Andrea Wells

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