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Job loss and retaliation silence many sexual harassment victims

The number of workers in California facing sexual harassment at work remains largely hidden because most of them never make formal complaints. University researchers who studied the problem estimated that roughly 5 million people experience sexual harassment on the job every year. Almost all of them, 99.8 percent, never make official charges because only approximately 1,500 cases went to court during the time period of the study.

Researchers gathered data from over 46,000 complaints that occurred from 2012 to 2016. They relied on reports from state fair employment agencies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Job loss resulted for 64 percent of people who complained about mistreatment at work. Retaliatory treatment affected 68 percent of complainants.

The study identified industries that experienced many more formal complaints than average. The mining and oil sector had the highest rate followed closely by the warehousing and transportation sectors. The majority of complaints came from women, who accounted for 81 percent of cases.

Since the study looked at data from before the #MeToo movement's emergence, one of the researchers speculated that the spotlight on sexual harassment might encourage more victims to speak up. The success rate for future complaints might increase as well.

The advice of an attorney could inform a person about the process of filing a sexual harassment complaint. A lawyer could evaluate the evidence and provide an opinion about the likelihood of a complaint resolving the problem. Legal representation might empower a person during arbitration or other negotiations. An attorney could emphasize the evidence that points to an employer's illegal conduct. This level of advocacy might convince an employer to offer a settlement. In some cases, a lawyer might pursue litigation and prepare the case for the courtroom.

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