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Automated systems could improve reporting of sexual harassment

When Pennsylvanians experience sexual harassment in the workplace, they often hesitate to report their problems. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 75 percent of sexual harassment incidents go unreported. To improve this situation, a handful of researchers and technology developers have begun to experiment with web-based platforms that could make it easier for victims to report problems.

Generally, people must go to their human resource departments to report harassment. However, such complaints often fall on unsympathetic ears. For example, high profile examples of sexual harassment at Uber involved HR professionals ignoring or dismissing reports. One psychologist explained that most people will either disbelieve victims or retaliate against them.

One new online platform called Talk to Spot creates a way for victims to report their claims without having to interact with a company representative. The system employs artificial intelligence to interview victims. The program is based on the cognitive interviewing style used by law enforcement. This style draws out information without trying to lead a person's answers. After the interview, the victim can choose to send the complaint to the company anonymously.

Sexual harassment can make someone feel very isolated at work. When a worker does not feel comfortable making a complaint to an employer, a conversation with an attorney could prove productive. An attorney could evaluate the facts and explain which laws may have been broken. To defend the worker's rights, an attorney could organize the evidence to build a case. An attorney could communicate the complaint to the employer or inform the EEOC. This preliminary phase could resolve the problem and result in a settlement for damages.

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