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The role of corporate culture in addressing sexual harassment

Employers in Pennsylvania and around the country are encouraged to put procedures into place that make it easy for workers to report sexual harassment, but research suggests that this type of policy is only successful when workplace cultures are open to dealing with these issues. Most companies stress the importance of addressing discrimination and harassment during training or orientation periods, but researchers from the Society of Human Resource Management discovered that only about a quarter of the workers who witness or are the victims of sexual harassment report what they have seen or experienced.

According to SHRM, workers are often reluctant to report sexual harassment because they are concerned about escalating the situation and setting an unstoppable series of events into motion. They also worry that speaking up lead to unintended consequences and damage workplace morale. The research suggests that these reservations can be particularly strong when the harasser is a respected or trusted figure.

Witnessing sexual harassment can shatter the trust workers have in their places of employment, but remaining silent may place them under even more stress. While deciding whether or not to speak up may be extremely difficult for long-time employees, it can be unbearable for workers with preexisting anxiety issues. Workplace discrimination and harassment policies are often adopted to avoid legal entanglements, but the SHRM research suggests that employers should also consider the psychological consequences of this type of behavior and the impact that it can have on productivity and morale.

Gathering corroborating evidence can be crucial in sexual harassment cases, and attorneys with experience in this area may approach this task delicately. Workers who have long remained silent about inappropriate behavior could be forthcoming when approached directly, and what they say could be used anonymously to encourage employers to settle these matters quietly.

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