The Tennessean recently published an article that at least 460 state employees have filed sex harassment claims since 2010. Of these claims, roughly 190 incidents were found to have merit, but the consequences for state employees varied widely. Even more disturbing, these were just the documented claims that the journalists were given access to. By all accounts, some departments refused to cooperate with the investigation. As set forth in my previous blog post, many women do not report harassment. As such, this is likely the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, widespread sex harassment is all too common. Lack of consequences is the main reason we still see such pervasive issues. Sex harassment is not and should not be just a “fact of life” as I recently heard in the news. Once an employer is notified of sex harassment in the workplace, it has a duty to take prompt and effective remedial action. This can include separating the employee and the harasser or placing the harasser out of work pending an investigation. However, doing nothing is not an option, nonetheless, we have seen cases time and time again where the employer did just that- nothing. Or worse, they punish the victim and place them out of work.
It is important to report all incidents of sexual harassment. Once that occurs, the ball is in the employer’s court to do something that is an actual remedy to the harassment, not just a slap on the hand of the harasser.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace, it is important to make timely contact with an attorney whose primary practice area is in employment law. All we do at Heather M. Collins is employment law for employees. We are not management attorneys. We don’t play both sides of the fence. This is all we do. Call us if you need help.