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Consequences for bystanders who report workplace harassment

Some New Jersey employees may have witnessed sexual harassment at their workplace even if they have not directly experienced it themselves. Many people hesitate to report sexual harassment because of the possibility for retaliation. Unfortunately those who witness the harassment and report it might also be subject to the same treatment.

One man worked for a boss who often made lewd comments about women employees and yelled at them during meetings. When the boss recounted a story of a sexual escapade when several women employees were present, the women were upset afterward. They told the man they did not feel safe working with the boss but feared for their jobs. The man reported him to human resources. HR said it investigated the situation and closed it. Not long after, the man was demoted and then fired for allegedly poor performance. He said he has since struggled to find work because a background check let potential employers know the details. However, the man said that even though his health and finances have suffered, he would do the same thing again.

People who report sexual harassment are advised to document it. This may include evidence such as videos, or it might simply mean writing down what happened with a date and time stamp.

The first step a person may want to take before reporting harassment is to consult with an attorney. The reason for this is that as the story above demonstrates, human resources does not always adequately protect people who report harassment or act on harassment reports. An attorney might be able to advise them as to how best to proceed. For example, in addition to documenting the harassment, they might also want to document positive feedback at work in case the employer tries to terminate them.

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