Tennessee residents may be aware that the technology sector has been rocked by a number of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment cases. A list of alleged sexual harassers released by a dozen female venture capital partners and senior executives included some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent names, and the company behind the popular ride sharing application Uber has been accused of nurturing a hostile work environment in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former worker.
However, a study from the nonprofit advocacy group Women Who Tech suggests that the problem could be more widespread than even headlines like these would suggest. The organization has started compiling data from 950 men and women working in technology startups, and the data indicates that many women tolerate unfair or discriminatory behavior at work because they fear that speaking up would stifle their careers or even cost them their jobs.
A previous study from Harvard University concluded that the vast majority of workplace sexual harassment goes unreported. Some of the female technology sector workers who have responded to the Women Who Tech survey report that harassment is so prevalent in the industry that it has become the de facto way of doing business, and others say that they remained silent because they did not think they would be believed.
Attorneys with experience in this area will have likely encountered clients who tolerated unfair and illegal working conditions because of anxiety and fear, and they may understand that these feelings can be particularly powerful among workers in close-knit industries and business communities. However, the penalties for violating the applicable laws can be severe, and employers may have reasons of their own for settling these matters quickly and discretely. Nondisclosure agreements protect employers from bad publicity and further litigation, and attorneys could agree to recommend them to their clients in return for generous settlement offers.