If you are the victim of sexual harassment on the job, chances are you are not suffering alone. Even if you are the only person the harasser is targeting at your workplace, the mistreatment may be creating a tense atmosphere for others around you. More importantly, there may be witnesses among your co-workers.
Having someone who knows what you are going through is important for more than just finding emotional support. A witness to harassment can provide critical corroboration of your complaint and invoke overall change in the work environment. Unfortunately, many witnesses do not come forward, and those who do may not know the best ways to help you.
Why witnesses don’t come forward
If you feel alone in your struggle with sexual harassment on the job, look around you. Depending on the number of people who work with you, it is likely someone has seen what is going on. In fact, a recent study shows that 60% of harassment reports include the name of at least one witness. Sadly, most of these witnesses keep the information to themselves or share it only with family or friends. There are numerous reasons for this, including:
- Witnesses do not realize they have the right to report harassment if they are not the victims.
- Many witnesses do not know the procedure for reporting the harassment of a coworker.
- Those who know the process for reporting harassment often say it is too complicated.
- Other witnesses complain that they do not have time to get involved in the process.
- Some witnesses are nervous about their coworkers seeing them as a snitch.
The most common reason why a coworker may hesitate to come forward if they witness someone sexually harassing you is that they fear retaliation in the workplace. The witness may worry they will lose their job or suffer some other negative repercussion, especially if your employer has no procedure in place for anonymous reporting of harassment or discrimination.
You do not have to endure the hostility and fear of sexual harassment. The laws of California and the federal government protect you. You may also benefit from the statements of any witnesses who are willing to come forward with information to support your claims. While you may feel ill-equipped to obtain this information yourself, a skilled legal professional with experience in employment law can advocate for you.