Workplace sexual harassment can affect the overall culture of a company. Especially if the harassment occurs in front of other employees, many people may notice the hostile work environment that results from people targeting one individual or supervisors engaging in quid pro quo harassment with team members. Everyone may feel uncomfortable, but they may also remain quiet about the issue.
When an individual speaks up about sexual harassment, the company will typically need to investigate. As a witness, you have protection from retaliation that is very similar to the protection that the person complaining of harassment receives.
When someone from Human Resources reaches out to you to ask about an incident or the dynamic between a few people, you will likely tell the truth because you want the work situation to improve for everyone.
Unfortunately, even though your honesty could lead to an improvement for everyone, you may face retaliation from the company for how you respond to the inquiry. You may find that you no longer receive due consideration for promotions or that your supervisor has started to take an issue with your job performance despite it remaining the same.
Workers who serve as witnesses in sexual harassment cases may need to document their involvement for their own protection so that they don’t become victims of workplace retaliation for doing what is right.
Knowing that you have protection from retaliation as a witness to harassment may motivate you to tell the truth when management inquires about what happened and to fight back if they punish you for doing so.