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Sexual violence in the workplace may be underreported

Some Texas employees may have faced sexual harassment and even attempted rape at work and not reported it due to not understanding their rights or fear of losing their job. One woman, general counsel at an advocacy group, says that as a part-time restaurant manager, she herself did not report an attempted assault for these reasons. Another woman who was working as a waitress while she was a student tells a similar story.

An attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that protection exists for undocumented workers as well as for other employees. This protection was highlighted when a Colorado resort paid in excess of $1 million to members of its housekeeping staff after the management failed to protect them from sexual assaults by ignoring their reports. The lawsuit had been brought by the EEOC on their behalf.

While the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that there are more than 43,000 sexual assaults and rapes in the workplace annually, some advocates say many more are not reported. Men also face sexual violence in the workplace with about 17 percent of the agency's cases involving men.

Employers should be aware of the potential for facing a lawsuit if an employee alleges sexual harassment. They should also know that it may be illegal to terminate the employee for reporting harassment or an assault. Employers may want to seek legal counsel if an employee reports harassment or if they find themselves the focus of a lawsuit. An attorney may be able to advise regarding how they should proceed with the employee accused of harassment as well as the accuser. If the EEOC does file a lawsuit, one option might be to avoid protracted litigation by offering an out-of-court settlement.

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