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Avoiding Double Victimization in Sexual Harassment

A study published by the Organization Science Journal concerning victims of sexual harassment at work has found that victims who remain passive in the face of sexual harassment often become victims of a secondary ― more passive ― form of harassment. The report, co-authored by academics from the Universities of Utah, Notre Dame, Columbia and Brigham Young, concluded that victims who do not respond to the harassment or do not report the behavior are viewed by co-workers with disdain, to the extent that the co-workers do not recommend the victim for promotion or seek to work in collaboration with them.

How can employers reduce double victimization?

The root of the condemnation and secondary victimization, the authors contend, is the co-workers’ misplaced assumption that they would act differently if faced with the same situation. The suggested solution for preventing such double victimization is improved training of employees ― not only in order to reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment, but also to help co-workers empathize with the psychological effects of sexual harassment and the motivation that drives a victim to remain passive.

Could the employer be liable for retaliation?

California anti-harassment laws protect victims of sexual harassment from any form of discrimination by an employer or by any other person for having opposed or reported the unlawful sexual harassment. If the victim behaves passively in the face of the sexual harassment or does not report it, the secondary discrimination by co-workers may not result in liability for retaliation as such, but an employer who does not take immediate action may be liable for failing to take the necessary steps to prevent secondary sexual harassment.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment at work, do not suffer in silence. Contact the Southern California sexual harassment attorneys at The Ruttenberg Law Firm, P.C. to discuss how they can help you get your professional life back on track.

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