Why does harassment at work often go entirely unreported?

It’s very common for one workplace harassment allegation to spawn a number of additional complaints. Once one victimized person steps forward, other employees will stand up and say that they, too, were harassed in the same way. 

This helps to show a pattern of behavior in a toxic workplace, but it also highlights the fact that a lot of these actions initially went unreported. People didn’t say anything at first. Theoretically, there could be more victims who are still not saying anything. Why does this occur? 

There are numerous reasons that paint a concerning picture

These types of stories always create a worrying picture of just how prevalent harassment really is, and there are certainly a lot of reasons why people do not report what occurred. Just a few of them include:

  • They did not know if it was bad enough to actually count as harassment.
  • They wanted to forget that it had taken place and put it behind them.
  • They were worried that they would be fired and lose their career.
  • They did not know if anyone would even believe them if they did file.
  • They did not think that anyone would really do anything about it.
  • They were worried about their own reputation and may even have thought they would be blamed.
  • They did not know who to talk to or how to make a report.
  • They wanted to report it but didn’t think they could prove anything.

Again, these are just a few of the many concerns people have that influence their reporting behavior. If you have been sexually harassed at work, rest assured that you do have legal options and you need to know what they are.

super lawyers
New York County Lawyers Association
New York City Bar
NELA Advocates for Employee Rights National Employment Lawyers Association
lead counsel lc verified