Chattanooga Times Free Press

Study: Many who re­port ha­rass­ment face re­tal­i­a­tion

- BY JOCELYN NOVECK Sexism · Society · Discrimination · Human Rights · NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Three years into the #MeToo move­ment, there may be more aware­ness around work­place sex­ual ha­rass­ment. But a new re­port finds that al­most three-quar­ters of peo­ple re­port­ing such ha­rass­ment suf­fer from re­tal­i­a­tion if they com­plain.

More than 7 out of 10 peo­ple who re­ported sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place said they faced some form of re­tal­i­a­tion, up to and in­clud­ing be­ing fired, said the re­port. It an­a­lyzed 3,317 on­line re­quests for le­gal help from the Time’s Up Le­gal De­fense Fund, be­tween Jan­uary 2018 and the end of April 2020.

The finding on re­tal­i­a­tion was one of the most strik­ing of the broad-rang­ing re­port, shared with The As­so­ci­ated Press ahead of its re­lease Thurs­day. It also found that work­place ha­rass­ment se­verely im­pacted work­ers’ eco­nomic, phys­i­cal and men­tal health, and that of­ten, peo­ple were sub­jected to more than one form of work­place ha­rass­ment — both sex­ual and racial, for ex­am­ple.

The study was con­ducted by the Na­tional Women’s Law Cen­ter, which houses and ad­min­is­ters the Time’s Up Le­gal De­fense Fund, launched in early 2018 to help work­ers who oth­er­wise wouldn’t be able to af­ford to take their com­plaints of sex­ual mis­con­duct to court. It con­nects them with le­gal as­sis­tance and in some cases helps de­fray costs.

“Re­tal­i­a­tion takes all dif­fer­ent forms,” Sharyn Te­jani, di­rec­tor of the fund, said. “Los­ing your job, los­ing shifts, los­ing pay — or if you’ve al­ready lost your job, you can’t find an­other job in that in­dus­try.”

Also, Te­jani noted, is the com­pli­ca­tion of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

“So now you have a sit­u­a­tion where there’s in­cred­i­bly high un­em­ploy­ment, some jobs are go­ing away and never com­ing back, and so for all the rea­sons that peo­ple are afraid of re­port­ing and afraid of be­ing re­tal­i­ated against, COVID-19 ... makes it so much worse and so much more prob­lem­atic.”

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