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Obstacles to bringing a sexual harassment case

In all the furor about sexual harassment cases in recent months, one fact has been overlooked:

It remains difficult to win a sexual harassment case.

A recent NPR report noted that the standard for harassment is pretty high – so high that only 3 to 4 percent of cases actually go to trial.

It should be noted that though a smallish number of cases go to trial, many are settled out of court, at considerable cost to employers.

The 3 or 4 percent figure seems especially small given that, in numerous surveys, up to 50 percent of all women, of all ages, claim to have been harassed on the job.

What keeps those who believe they have been sexually harassed, from coming forward and demanding an end to mistreatment?

If you are reading this, you know the answers

  • Justifiable fear that your employer will retaliate.
  • The worry that their story will not seem pervasive or serious” enough. (Are three acts of harassment enough to qualify as “pervasive”? Is one instance of an employee touching you “serious” enough?)
  • The fact that most judges are still male, and older, and come from a generation with a more relaxed attitude about harassment.
  • Past cases in which harassment charges are treated lightly create precedents that today’s harassers fall back on.

The news stories we are seeing, involving celebrities, are appalling. But they are having an enormous impact on public consciousness. Employers are awakening to the power of women who are sick and tired of being treated like trash on the job.

(By the way, everything we say here about women applies equally to men who have been sexually harassed. It is a real problem for both sexes.)

An opportunity for justice

These stories offer an unprecedented opportunity for those who have been victimized to make a case for compensation.

The Law Office of G. Scott Fiddler has been fighting and winning these kinds of cases for years. We are glad to see this issue finally rising to the forefront of public dialog.


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