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To report or not to report sexual harassment in the workplace

Companies in California may not have a legal obligation to put sexual harassment policies in place, but most have one anyway. Sexual harassment policies may be especially important in the Golden State, where the #MeToo movement rocked Hollywood and took down some of the most well-known names in the entertainment business. These men — and sometimes, women — allegedly took advantage of younger candidates and employees seeking to advance their careers.

CNN reports that 90% of human resources professionals say the company they work for has sexual harassment policies in place. This helps to provide workers with protection in a number of ways. It establishes a route for people to address, report and prevent sexual harassment. Good policies also outline the consequences of proven allegations, regardless of position in the company.

Still, some people may prefer not to report sexual harassment on the job and there is currently no federal law requiring them to. The situation changes when someone confides in a supervisor. Courts ruled that once a supervisor knows about the allegation, they have a legal obligation to report it. The company, in turn, then has a legal obligation to act.

According to CNBC, 72% of the 12% of people who say they have experienced sexual harassment at work do not report it. In addition to this, 54% of them did not speak to the offender about it. But why? Some people may argue victims and observers have a moral obligation to report the incident. After all, when the company takes no corrective action, the perpetrator may continue to offend, putting other employees at risk.

However, reporting the incident is not always as simple as telling the boss and walking away scot-free. The main reason people chose note to report the incident is that they did not wish to be labeled a troublemaker. This accounted for 40% of responders in the survey cited by CNBC. Another 22% feared going up against the word of the other person and 18% worried about potentially losing their job.

These are sound reasons to remain silent. Even so, many workers may benefit from seeking professional assistance or advice outside of work. These professionals may have no obligation to report the incident if the worker does not wish them to. But, if they decide to take action, they may now know the best course to follow to protect themselves and their job.

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