How Sexual Harassment Affects the Workplace

Sexual harassment does not only affect the person being harassed; the entire workplace can be negatively impacted. A company can suffer financially, legally and in many other ways if it allows a workplace culture of harassment or discrimination to persist. It is in an organization’s best interests to be proactive about preventing sexual harassment. 

Human Impact of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

First – and most importantly – is the human impact within the company. Sexual harassment in the workplace can create a hostile work environment for everyone. A hostile work environment is one where workers feel unsafe, unwelcome, threatened or intimidated. Even if someone is not the specific target of sexual harassment, being a bystander can have its own repercussions. 

It is important for a company to be clear and upfront about its anti-sexual harassment stance. Tolerating any type of harassment, bullying or inappropriate conduct can encourage similar misbehavior among other employees and eventually create a workplace culture of harassment. This can ultimately lead to low employee self-esteem, mental health problems, and widespread worker unhappiness.

Financial Impact of Workplace Sexual Harassment

The second concern is the financial impact that sexual harassment can have on a workplace, which can be immense. Many employers underestimate how much sexual harassment can cost. While anti-harassment training and awareness programs come with a price, it pales in comparison to how much a culture of harassment and discrimination can cost a company in the long run.

Decreased Productivity

Sexual harassment or a hostile work environment can make it more difficult for workers to concentrate on their jobs. Sexual harassment can be distracting for everyone in the office – not just the victim. If the issue is not resolved right away, the victim may suffer depression, anxiety or panic attacks that further interfere with the ability to work. Decreased productivity from sexual harassment can cost a company thousands of dollars in lost opportunities, labor and production.

Hiring and Retention Problems

Failing to prevent or address sexual harassment can lead to the person being harassed quitting their job, and others also quitting in protest or solidarity. In 2021, the average cost of hiring and training a new employee is around $4,129 in turnover costs alone. That’s if a company with a reputation for sexual harassment can find qualified job applicants to hire. Without addressing the root cause of the issue, a company can anticipate further hiring and retention problems in the future.

Legal Expenses, Lawsuits, and Settlements

Sexual harassment is against federal and state law. If an employer reasonably should have done more to prevent sexual harassment or respond to a worker’s complaint, the company could face legal action for its misconduct. A lawsuit for sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination or retaliation could cost a company millions of dollars in legal fees, court costs, the price of an attorney, and the amount owed to the victim in a settlement or jury verdict.

Brand Impact

Finally, a reputation of ignoring or encouraging sexual harassment in the workplace could negatively impact a brand in the eyes of the public. If the issue gets out – such as from a sexual harassment lawsuit or a past employee leaving a negative review on a hiring website – the company could suffer a major hit to its profit margin. Customers are less likely to support a brand that has a history of harassing, abusing or mistreating its employees. A negative reputation of sexual harassment could be enough to force a business to close its doors forever. 

Preventing Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace

Protect your organization from all of the potential negative effects of sexual harassment by preventing this problem from the beginning. Prioritize creating a safe, open workspace and a company culture that does not condone or tolerate sexual harassment behaviors – even by higher-ups in the company. If you need legal assistance with a sexual harassment case in Los Angeles, it is important to contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney.