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NY senator's sexual harassment claims shine light on problem

According to research from the National Women's Law Center, as much as 60 percent of individuals who experience workplace sexual harassment do not report the problem. In other words, the thousands of sexual harassment cases reported each year only scratch the surface.

The reasons as to why people don't report sexual harassment are numerous, including all of the forms of workplace retaliation. However, sexual harassment is a serious matter that creates a hostile environment in far too many workplaces, and anyone who has suffered this form of mistreatment has a right to hold wrongdoers accountable. The question of whether to report sexual harassment is currently in the national spotlight after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York publicly stated that she had been sexually harassed by other lawmakers.

Reporters at a number of media outlets have called for Sen. Gillibrand to name the harassers. So far, she hasn't. But the fact that she went public with her claims has drawn important attention to the widespread problem of sexual harassment, which happens not only in white-collar settings. In fact, if you look at case law, you'll find that most reports of harassment come from lower-paying workplaces where employees may feel that they don't have any protections.

The reality, though, is that state and federal laws provide protections against workplace harassment. You can learn more about those protections on our sexual harassment overview.

The decision to bring a sexual harassment claim can certainly be a difficult one, but people who have experienced this mistreatment should know that they have legal recourse. With these issues in mind, we can hope that, even if Sen. Gillibrand doesn't name her alleged harassers, the fact that she brought attention to the problem will encourage others to do the same.

Source: ThinkProgress.org, "Kirsten Gillibrand Reports Sexual Harassment, Gets Criticized By Media (Updated)," Alice Ollstein, Aug. 28, 2014

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