Study: Reporting sexual harassment usually results in retaliation

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2020 | sexual harassment |

Starting in October 2017, the #MeToo movement compelled the national media to pay attention to sexual harassment in the workplace. For a time, there was substantial coverage of allegations of harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct by powerful, often famous men.

Though awareness of workplace sexual harassment is greater today because of #MeToo, have behaviors changed for the better in the past three years?   A recent study called “Coming Forward” by the National Women’s Law Center looks at what happens today when sexual harassment occurs.

Harassment and retaliation

Researchers analyzed data from more than 3,300 requests submitted between Jan. 1, 2018 and the end of April this year to the National Women’s Law Center for legal assistance.

One of the most startling study findings is that more than 7 in 10 people (72 percent) who report workplace sexual harassment later face some form of retaliation. Reprisals included being fired, being denied promotions and even being sued for defamation.

Common forms of retaliation

The most common form of retaliation: termination (36 percent), followed by poor performance evaluations and poor treatment in the workplace (19 percent).

It should be noted that both California and federal employment law prohibit retaliation against workers who report on-the-job sexual harassment.

In addition to those mentioned, other forms of retaliation include:

  • Denied pay raises
  • Having hours changed or reduced
  • Transfers
  • Demotions
  • A cut in pay or benefits
  • Denied training or other opportunities for advancement

“Coming Forward” by the numbers

Workplace sexual harassment can affect more than a career, of course. In fact, 22 percent of those subjected to harassment said it had a negative impact on their financial well-being. Other “Coming Forward” results include:

  • 19 percent: harassment negatively affected their mental health
  • 28 percent: the harassment they endured was not an isolated incident
  • 21 percent: the perpetrator harassed multiple victims
  • 36 percent: experienced sexual assault, assault or other physical harassment
  • 11 percent: reported the harassment to law enforcement
  • 64 percent: reported the harassment to their employer
  • 56 percent: the perpetrator was a manager or supervisor
  • 37 percent: nothing happened to the perpetrator

Harassment and discrimination

Another revealing statistic from the “Coming Forward” report is that 18 percent said they experienced harassment and/or discrimination based on gender and other components of their identities, including color, national origin or disability. Nearly one in nine (11 percent) said they’d experienced both gender and race discrimination at work.

Not only are sexual harassment and retaliation unlawful, so too is discrimination based on disability, gender, gender identity, race, national origin, religion, age, sexual preference or color.