Research indicates that strong leadership can play a role in reducing sexual harassment in companies both in Arizona and throughout the country. When employees believe that there are consequences for their actions, they are less likely to commit acts of harassment. When they don’t believe that there are consequences, they are more likely to commit them. In such cultures, those who engage in sexual harassment tend to be protected while accusers are the ones who are penalized.
The conclusion that leadership and messaging impact attitudes toward harassment are backed up by research. An online study featuring 618 participants reading a statement from a fictional CEO. One statement expressed shock at the rates of sexual harassment while another attempted to downplay it. The responses of the participants tended to mirror the message sent in the statements that they read. This was true regardless of a person’s gender or what the reader’s politics were.
For companies, acknowledging the issue can be more beneficial than trying to deny it exists. By denying the problem, it could cause those who have been victimized to go public with their stories. Recently, Google employees staged a walkout over the fact that executives who were accused of harassment had been let go with severance packages. Ultimately, those who don’t act may actually be signaling their approval of harassment within an organization.
Employers who allow individuals to engage in workplace harassment may be liable in a lawsuit or other legal action. This may be true whether managers or executives knew about it or not. Furthermore, it may be true in cases involving outside clients or vendors. An attorney may be able to help a harassment victim pursue legal action to obtain punitive damages, back pay or other forms of compensation that may be available.