Although many companies have hotlines for reporting sexual harassment, they are rarely used. Not only do employees feel uncomfortable using them, often the number is not readily available. The fact that a hotline number exists provides ready cover for a corporation that wants to be able to say they are protecting their employees from sexual harassment. Recently, both Fox News and Bill O’Reilly turned to the Fox News sexual harassment hotline as support against the allegations being made against the star, saying not one woman had used the hotline to report him.
Hotlines are Hard to Find
The New York Times interviewed several women who experienced sexual harassment at Fox News and none of them knew about the existence of a hotline. Though they were required to undergo sexual harassment training, the training did not include information about the hotline or publicize the phone number.
Hotlines are not what encourage employees to report sexual harassment, it is the company culture. If employees fear retaliation and retribution, they will not report sexual harassment. However, if they feel they will be supported in their claim, they are more likely to make a report. In instances where employees do report sexual harassment, the hotline is the least likely avenue used to do so. Some lawyers representing sexual harassment clients allege that the corporate hotlines that are supposed to be confidential will instead use the caller’s information to start an investigation against them. Because the call is supposed to be anonymous, the company can claim innocence if the employee experiences retaliation after reporting sexual harassment.
On the other hand, if employees feel they will be taken seriously and are supported, they are more likely to report sexual harassment. Accountability is key to demonstrating that harassment will not be condoned in the workplace. If a case of harassment is substantiated, the harasser has to go. Managers must also be held accountable for preventing and responding to reports of sexual harassment. In organizations where harassment is not tolerated, levels of harassment are correspondingly lower.
Research shows that in 2015, almost one third of discrimination claims filed at the federal level were for sexual and other forms of workplace harassment. There are unreported cases estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Studies indicate that a troubling two-thirds of employees who reported sexual harassment were victims of retaliatory acts afterwards.
The company of CEB did a survey of 340,000 employees at 21 different companies and found that eight percent of them had witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Out of those eight percent, only half reported it. Training workers about intervention and prevention means everyone shares in the responsibility to keep the workplace free of harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) task force on workplace harassment issued a report that concluded that in order to have a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace in which harassment is not acceptable, leadership must come from the very top of the organization.
Marlton Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Step In when Sexual Harassment Hotlines are Not Enough
If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, call McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.‘s Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, Marlton office at 856-985-9800, Newark office at 973-878-9040, or by contacting us online.