Bill O’Reilly Case May Not be Unique: Why Women Struggle to Report Sexual Harassment

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts. Sexual harassment in the workplace has once again taken central stage in the media after the New York Times recently published an investigative report finding that Bill O’Reilly paid $13 million in response to alleged complaints from women. While O’Reilly denies that the claims have any merit, the headlines raise questions about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, and shed light on the challenges women face when they face harassment from a male colleague who holds a position of authority.
According to the Times, at least five women have received money from O’Reilly or Fox to prevent litigation and to stop the women from speaking out about their allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. The pattern that the Times reports is one where O’Reilly would provide career advice to the women, but would then try to pursue sexual relationships with the women. This kind of quid pro quo behavior could fall under workplace sexual harassment violations. Large media companies are not the only places where these kinds of violations occur. In another New York Times piece on sexual harassment in the sciences, women in the sciences sometimes face advances from their research advisors—men who hold the keys to academia and research positions. Women rely on the goodwill of these men for recommendations and for positions in their labs.
Many women struggle with how to respond to these workplace sexual advancements. For example, reporting a male colleague who holds a position of authority can be career damaging, especially if a woman relies on this man’s letter of recommendation or connections to advance in the field. Unfortunately, when women fail to report harassment or fail to document their attempts to get it to stop, judges, juries, and employers may use a woman’s silence as evidence that she was complicit. According to the New York Times, only 2 to 13 percent of women who have faced workplace sexual harassment go on to file formal complaints.
Women fear retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Some women are not aware that pressure for sexual favors or dates can constitute sexual harassment, if the advancements are unwanted. Sadly, many women do face retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. These women may even be labeled as “troublemakers.”
So, what is a woman to do if she faces unwanted sexual advances, unwanted lewd comments, or a quid pro quo situation where she is pressured to exchange sexual favors for career advancement? For one, if you are receiving email messages or text messages that are inappropriate, you should immediately write an email or text back asking that the behavior stop. Next, if the harassment continues, women should report the harassment to human resources or follow their company’s procedures for reporting harassment.
Finally, having a workplace sexual harassment lawyer like Dinsmore Stark working on your side can also help. Our firm can take a look at your case, and help you proceed. In some instances, you may be able to settle outside of court. In other instances, such as in the case of a wrongful termination, our firm may pursue your case in court. If you believe you have faced retaliation as a result of reporting workplace sexual harassment, you need the wrongful termination lawyers at Dinsmore Stark: Attorneys at Law. Our Springfield, Massachusetts lawyers work closely with victims of sexual harassment to help them get the justice they may deserve.

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