The 5 biggest barriers in sexual harassment cases
The recent news stories about sexual harassment have heightened the focus in this area, and particularly on sexual harassment within the workplace.
As specialists in this area, we are unfortunately not surprised by these stories which have started to emerge from Hollywood. We have seen many similar cases over the years.
Many people are reluctant to pursue a sexual harassment claim and the reasons are always the same. Five of the most common reasons people give to us for not pursuing a claim are below. We don’t think they should prevent employees from pursing claims if they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. Do you agree?
Reason 1. A claim is unlikely to be successful in a tribunal
It’s true that sexual harassment cases can be hard to win. But it’s also important to consider what constitutes a victory. Many cases don’t end up in tribunal, and by pursuing a claim, employees are addressing and possibly rectifying a problem in the workplace. If a settlement is reached, then an employee has closure and can move on with their career.
Reason 2. Employee may not have enough evidence
Many victims worry that their case will end up in a he-said, she-said scenario unless they have some kind of evidence that the harassment occurred. It’s true that corroborating evidence like emails and witness statements from other employees do strengthen a case. However, there is a lower burden of proof within the Employment Tribunal than in a criminal court. This means that a strong and reliable first-person witness statement can still be decisive in the outcome of any sexual harassment case.
Reason 3. If an employee lodges a claim, it will damage their career
Victims often worry that reporting harassment will end their careers. It’s true that in some cases this can be a concern, especially when the harasser is someone as powerful as Harvey Weinstein. However, in the majority of cases, the harasser is unlikely to be as influential or as damaging as an employee fears, even if the employee works for a large company and the harasser is a high-level executive.
Reason 4. HR Can’t help an employee
Many victims feel they can’t report the matter to HR because they will not be able to help them. Whilst unfortunately this may be true for some people, most people who work within HR have been trained to deal with these scenarios and will look to resolve the matter. If an employee has any concerns about raising the matter formally with their employer, they should always speak with a solicitor first.
Reason 5. An employee can’t afford to pursue the claim
It is true that hiring a solicitor to represent an employee can be expensive. However, pursuing a claim may not be as expensive as people think, especially if a settlement is reached without the need to go to Tribunal. Also, with the recent Supreme Court decision to abolish Tribunal fees, pursuing a claim is no longer as expensive as it used to be.