California residents and others may have noticed the public discussion surrounding sexual harassment in American society. Despite the recent media attention, only 3 to 6 percent of sexual harassment cases filed by employees actually make it to trial. This is partially because the standard for a case to rise to sexual harassment is high. According to the Supreme Court, harassment must be severe or pervasive to qualify as harassment.
This can lead to scenarios where harassment lasts over a period of several days but is ruled to be not pervasive enough to qualify as criminal. However, if incidents occur over a long period of time, it may be ruled that the behavior was not severe enough to be harassment either. Cases may also be dismissed or settled in instances where there isn’t proof that a party objected to sexual advances or other actions.
As cases of groping or other harassment are more likely to be dismissed than go to trial, it may dissuade others from reporting their experiences. It is estimated that about 25 percent of all women have been harassed in the workplace. However, only 5 to 15 percent have actually come forward with their allegations. This is largely because they are afraid that they will be retaliated against.
Those who lost work or were treated differently on the job after reporting sexual or other types of harassment might wish to take action against their employers. Attorneys could use victim statements or witness statements to establish that harassment was severe or pervasive. If successful, individuals may receive compensation for lost wages or other damages. Reinstatement might be possible for those who were wrongfully terminated.