More than seven in 10 people who experienced workplace sex harassment faced some form of retaliation—including termination, being sued for defamation, and denial of promotions, according to a new report by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), which analyzed the experiences of workers who reached out to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. More than half of the workers (56 percent) who identified their perpetrator said they were harassed by someone they reported to at work and nearly two in five (37 percent) said that nothing happened to their harasser.
Three years after #metoo went viral in October 2017, this report provides a detailed analysis of the 3,317 requests for legal help submitted to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund between January 1, 2018 and April 30, 2020. The report, Coming Forward, reveals the dynamics and trends of workplace sex harassment that have long remained hidden.
Among the report’s stark findings, more than one-third of people (36 percent) reporting workplace sex harassment said they experienced physical harassment, sexual assault, or rape. More than one in seven people (15 percent) were threatened with legal action, with losing their job, or even physical harm, if they told anyone about their harassment. More than one in five described how sex harassment had a devastating impact on their economic well-being. Nearly one in five said that the harassment had long term negative repercussions on their mental health.
“The findings reveal the courage it takes for people to come forward and report the harassment and abuse they’re experiencing in the workplace,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center and a co-founder of the Fund. “Repeatedly, survivors endured abuse and once they rebuffed advances or reported it, many were fired, careers were destroyed, some became homeless—and too often, harassers got promotions. This brutal reality sounds an alarm to legislators and policymakers across the country: Until harassers are held accountable, workplaces will remain unsafe for everyone.”
“While it’s outrageous that sexual harassment and assault at work remain so prevalent, it’s inspiring to see so many survivors rise up to fight back,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation and a co-founder of the Fund. “In fact, another study TIME’S UP recently did found that four in five women say they’d report sexual harassment if it happened to them—even in the midst of this economic crisis since the pandemic. If one thing’s clear, it’s that we’re never going back to the days where sexual harassment will remain hidden in the shadows—and that’s a good thing.”
Topline findings include:
- More than seven in 10 survivors who experienced workplace sexual harassment faced some form of retaliation, including termination, being sued for defamation, and denial of promotions.
- More than seven in 10 people (72 percent) said they experienced some form of retaliation when they complained about harassment.
- Of those who experienced retaliation, the most common form mentioned was being fired (36 percent), followed by 19 percent who said they received poor performance evaluations, had their work products or behavior scrutinized, or were otherwise treated poorly at work.
- Individuals are turning first to their employers to report harassment, but employers are failing to take action.
- Of those people who said they reported the harassment (i.e., reported the harassment to an employer, a government agency, a court, or law enforcement), nearly two in three people (64 percent) reported the harassment to their employer.
- Of people who reported harassment, nearly three in 10 (29 percent) said nothing was done about it.
- Workplace sex harassment had a severe impact on individuals’ economic, physical, and mental health well-being.
- More than one in five people (22 percent) volunteered information about their experience of workplace sex harassment negatively impacting their economic or financial well-being.
- Nearly one in four who reported a negative economic impact (23 percent) said they had trouble finding another job.
- Nearly one in five people (19 percent) volunteered that the harassment had a damaging impact on their mental health.
- More than one in four people (28 percent) volunteered that the harassment they experienced was not an isolated incident.
- More than one in five people (21 percent) volunteered information about their perpetrator harassing multiple victims.
- More than one in three people (36 percent) said they experienced sexual assault, assault, rape, or other physical harassment.
- Nearly one in nine people (11 percent) said that they had reported the harassment to the police.
The TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, LLC, connects those who experience sexual misconduct — including assault, harassment, abuse, and related retaliation — in the workplace or in trying to advance their careers with legal assistance. In addition, the Fund helps defray legal and public relations costs in select cases of workplace sexual harassment and related retaliation based on criteria and availability of funds. The TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund is funded by the TIME’S UP Foundation which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
NWLC sexual harassment experts are available to discuss the broader implications of the report’s findings.