Risks for women reporting sexual harassment at work

Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and public exposure of prominent sexual harassers, many women in New York and around the country fear to report inappropriate behavior, although some have come forward about their experiences in the workplace. Even when they do, they are sometimes criticized for taking time before reporting the issues. Some believe that all employees need to do is report the problem in order to solve it. In reality, retaliation is a very serious concern.

One study demonstrated that people continue to have negative perceptions of women workers who report sexual harassment. The study asked people if they were likely to promote a hypothetical worker in certain situations. They were far less likely to support her promotion if they heard that she had reported instances of unwanted sexual behavior on the job. Interestingly, they were more likely to support a promotion if she reported nonsexual inappropriate behavior in the workplace. While the study was theoretical, it exposed very real attitudes that women workers face on the job if they report harassment. They are likely to lose opportunities for advancement and increased pay even if they do not face outright retaliation.

Despite the exposure of prominent harassers, many people continue to view women workers who report inappropriate conduct as overly sensitive. They may also cast doubt on their reports, even if they would believe them about nonsexual harassment. Study recipients rated the hypothetical employee lower in terms of her warmth and social skills when her profile included a report of harassment.

At the same time, many women are seeking an escape from the constant pressure of repeated harassment. Harassment itself can also hold people back from career achievements, promotions and raises. Workers dealing with sexual harassment on the job can consult with an employment law attorney about their options to pursue justice.

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