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Sacramento Employment Law Blog


Do bystanders really condemn passive victims of harassment?

Sexual harassment in the work place is never acceptable. However, the reality is that plenty of employers treat certain workers differently or communicate with them inappropriately based solely on gender. In this day and age, many people in California understand that victims of sexual harassment at work have the right to take action against employers who engage in this behavior.

However, there is a very big difference between knowing these rights and enforcing these rights. Victims of sexual harassment are often suffering emotionally and internalizing the unfair treatment they have been subjected to. The decision to actually take action against an employer, especially if a person is not sure that what they are experiencing is harassment, can be gut-wrenching. Despite this reality, many people who have not been in similar situations may be quick to criticize the reactions of those who have.

Victims of workplace harassment often respond differently than what they may have expected. Dealing with a boss who makes promises in exchange for sexual favors, engages in inappropriate touching, or creates a hostile work environment with sexual jokes and innuendos is not necessarily something that a person can prepare for. Often times, the experience is much more traumatic, emotional and isolating than a person may anticipate.

When a person is struggling to cope with the stress and pain of this situation, they may appear to be passive to observers. According to recent reports, this cruel observation can result in further scrutiny and criticism from others. In at least two studies, observers who believed that a victim of sexual harassment was a “passive victim,” they were less likely to want to work with them or recommend them for another job.

However, when the researchers informed the observers about possible motivations for a passive reaction and were given a more accurate picture of what victims of sexual harassment experience, their condemnation was markedly reduced.

Dealing with the consequences of sexual harassment on the job can be a devastating and overwhelming experience. However, it is not something that a person has to go through alone. Those who have questions about their rights or are ready to take legal action against an unlawful employer can speak with an attorney who understands the struggles that many victims in this position deal with.

Source: Business News Daily, “Why Unreported Sexual Harassment Can Bring Ridicule,” Chad Brooks, Nov. 6, 2012