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Ongoing workplace discrimination is not always reported

The Massachusetts workforce is perhaps more knowledgeable than ever when it comes to anti-harassment strategies for the workplace. Most company handbooks outline specific behaviors that are unacceptable while state and federal laws also provide clear guidelines. This might lead some to believe that workplace discrimination is becoming a thing of the past, but a recent study uncovered that discrimination and harassment is a real and ongoing issue.

A report from the Equal Employment Opportunity -- the EEOC -- detailed how discrimination continues to occur even as efforts to stamp it out ramp up. The number of annual complaints is strikingly high. In the EEOC's prior fiscal year, it received 90,000 complaints of discrimination.

About 33 percent of those complaints were directly related to workplace harassment. Within those nearly 30,000 complaints were charges of sexual, ethnic and racial harassment. The EEOC further noted that the latter two forms of harassment have been vastly understudied even though an estimated 60 percent of all American workers have been victims of some type of workplace harassment based on their ethnicity or race. Despite the alarmingly high number of annual complaints to the EEOC, there is still more to the story. For every four victims of workplace harassment, only one ever makes a complaint to a person of authority.

The fear of retaliation often holds victims of workplace discrimination from moving forward with action, legal or otherwise. However, a lack of action rarely helps Massachusetts workers address or stop ongoing harassment, and in many instances, it may get worse or even result in unjust termination. When workers are treated unjustly in the workplace, timely legal action is often an appropriate option to putting an end to harassment while also achieving compensation for damages.

Source: Slate, "Harassment Is Still a Massive Problem in the American Workplace", Mark Joseph Stern, June 20, 2016

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