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Workplace sexual harassers often go unpunished

Workers in New York and around the country who have been subjected to sexual harassment are often placed in a position where they are expected to work alongside their perpetrators. This was the conclusion researchers from Michigan State University reached after studying sexual harassment cases that were settled through arbitration between 2008 and 2018. The study, which was published by the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, reveals that the punishments meted out to harassers were not upheld almost half of the time and more than one in four harassers were not punished at all.

The researchers also discovered that 41% of the fired harassers were reinstated after serving a suspension and some of them even received back pay. Most of the arbitration cases studied involved blue-collar workers, but the researchers believe the same kind of outcomes are common in the executive world as well. The researchers also say that their findings are significant because a growing number of employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements require sexual harassment claims to be resolved through arbitration.

This is a problem because allegations of sexual harassment are often given scant attention. A worrying 28% of the women surveyed by the American Bar Association and the Working Mother Research Institute in 2018 said that they were not taken seriously when they complained about workplace harassment. In many cases, these women felt that their only option was to look for another job.

Some employers would rather be sued for harassment than wrongful termination, which is why workers who have been treated unfairly are sometimes ignored when they complain. Attorneys with experience in this area could encourage employers to reevaluate this position by pointing out the great harm that corporate reputations can suffer when these allegations are covered up. Attorneys may advise employers to extricate themselves from this predicament by settling sexual harassment claims discretely at the negotiating table.

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