Most workplace sexual harassment goes unreported

Most employers in Tennessee and around the country have procedures in place that allow workers to report sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, but a study from the Society of Human Resources Management suggests that they are rarely used. According to SHRM, incidents involving sexual harassment are only reported by victims or witnesses about 25 percent of the time. The study also revealed that workers are often unaware that their employers have reporting procedures in place.

Many of the workers polled by SHRM said that they did not report inappropriate behavior because they did not want to disrupt their workplaces and set a chain of events into motion that could not be stopped. Others reported feeling uncomfortable even broaching the subject with managers or human resources departments. This reluctance was especially persuasive according to the SHRM study when the harasser was a senior figure or a respected colleague.

The study also highlights the impact that not reporting incidents of workplace sexual harassment can have on employees. Some of those questioned by SHRM said that remaining silent made them feel complicit, and these feelings were particularly strong among shy or reserved employees or those with anxiety issues. To address the problem, SHRM suggests that employers make their reporting procedures less formal and consider the impact that sexual harassment has on workplace morale rather than focusing on the legal issues involved.

The victims of workplace discrimination and harassment often suffer in silence because they feel that their colleagues will not step forward to support them, but workers who have witnessed unfair or inappropriate behavior could be more forthcoming when approached directly by attorneys who are gathering evidence. Witnesses may also believe that litigation could do more to address the problem than human resources managers who are primarily concerned about legal entanglements.

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