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Reasons Why Most Workplace Harassment Goes Unreported

94% of all those who face discrimination do not take action. Here’s why and how to take action.

Despite being prohibited by both federal and state laws, workplace discrimination remains a pervasive issue in the American workplace, with hundreds of thousands of complaints filed every year here in the United States. The victims of harassment or discrimination may be denied employment, benefits, earnings, and their dignity. Employers potentially face higher turnover rates and thousands of dollars in litigation costs. This is why everyone has a role to play in ending workplace discrimination and harassment.

So why do so many instances of discrimination go unreported? What should you do if you are discriminated against or harassed at work?

It can happen to anyone, at any time.

Discrimination can happen to anyone, and for a variety of reasons. Federal law protects employers from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on a number of factors, including race, religion, age, disabilities, sex, veteran status, and more.

Many prevalent forms of discrimination and bias occur during the interview and hiring process. This includes asking illegal interview questions or unlawfully refusing to hire an individual based on an actual or perceived disability. 

Once hired, discrimination can also impact promotion and pay decisions. Workplace discrimination is a category far broader than harassment. It can manifest itself in the way your coworkers and supervisors treat you on a day-to-day basis.

Many incidents of discrimination go unreported.

According to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a vast majority of discriminatory actions are never reported. In fact, the commission believes that upwards of 94% of all those who face discrimination do not take action. This is due to a number of factors:

  • Normalization: In a discriminatory workplace, unlawful behaviors become “normalized,” and affected employees often feel immense peer pressure—whether implicit or implied—to conform to a toxic work environment instead of standing up for their dignity and rights.
  • Retaliation: Federal and state laws are very clear that any retaliation against an employee for reporting discrimination is illegal. Despite this, many victims still worry about the consequences of speaking out and taking action. Paired with the normalization effect, fear of retaliation prevents many from reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment.
  • Confusion: An employee who has been discriminated against or harassed may not know who they can trust or speak to about the incident—especially if the discrimination is coming from a superior or someone in a position of authority. From both large corporations with larger HR offices to small businesses with no formal HR team, employees can face confusion and uncertainty about how to move forward.

Discrimination victims have rights.

When it comes to discrimination and harassment, it’s important that you assert your legal rights and take action. When you have been discriminated against, you should:

  • File a complaint: Use the appropriate channel through your workplace to file a discrimination complaint. Take careful notes or screenshots of all the interactions you have with your company’s human resources team and your supervisors. In a best-case scenario, your company will take appropriate, quick action to remedy the situation and address your concerns in a meaningful way. If not, you need to reach out to an attorney.
  • Speak with an attorney: Find a local attorney with a background in employment law and workplace discrimination cases. A qualified attorney can lay out your options and help guide you through the complaint and reporting process. Depending on the state in which you live, a formal complaint to the EEOC and a state body may be required before a lawsuit can be filed.

To learn more about workplace discrimination and how you can take action to protect yourself from unlawful discrimination by your employer, supervisor, or coworkers, take a look at this infographic sent to us by Blair & Ramirez LLP, an employment law attorney in Los Angeles. It breaks down the various forms of discrimination and outlines how victims can assert their rights under the law.

Created by Blair & Ramirez LLP