Mental Health for Survivors of Workplace Sexual Harassment

sexual harrassment int he workplace, woman being touched on shoulder by boss

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a traumatic experience that can have profound and lasting impacts on a survivor’s mental health. The road to recovery is often challenging, involving the navigation of both psychological and legal complexities. Haeggquist & Eck attorneys understands that recognizing and addressing the mental health repercussions for survivors is not just a necessity—it is a duty for employers and communities alike.

The Psychological Impact of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in a professional environment can significantly disrupt a person’s sense of safety and well-being. Survivors may experience a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions can hinder their ability to function in daily life and perform effectively at work. The stigma associated with mental health, particularly within the context of sexual harassment, often discourages survivors from seeking the help they need.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides robust protections against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Under this legislation, survivors have the right to a safe working environment free from harassment, and employers are required to take immediate and appropriate action when harassment is reported.

Furthermore, survivors with mental health conditions that qualify as disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations under both the FEHA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This can include modifications to their work schedule, access to mental health support services, and adjustments to their work environment to help manage their mental health.

Workplace Accommodations for Survivors

Employers must ensure that their workplace is supportive and accommodating to survivors of sexual harassment. This involves more than just adhering to legal requirements—it’s about fostering a culture that promotes mental health awareness and support. Reasonable accommodations might include offering flexible working hours, providing a private and comfortable space for breaks, or permitting telecommuting where possible.

Encouraging a Speak-Up Culture

To truly support survivors, a shift towards a speak-up culture in the workplace is necessary. This means not only encouraging survivors to come forward with their experiences but also ensuring they are met with support and understanding when they do. Training programs on sexual harassment and mental health should be mandatory, helping to educate all employees on the importance of a respectful and inclusive workplace.

Support Systems and Resources

Survivors should be encouraged to access professional mental health services. Counseling and therapy can play a critical role in the recovery process, helping survivors to work through their experiences and develop coping strategies. Employers can assist by providing information about employee assistance programs (EAPs) and local mental health resources.

Additionally, creating a workplace peer support group can give survivors a safe space to share their experiences and recovery journeys with others who understand what they are going through.

The journey of recovery for survivors of workplace sexual harassment is deeply personal and often fraught with challenges. By understanding the mental health impacts, enforcing legal protections, providing appropriate accommodations, and fostering a supportive work environment, employers can play a crucial role in aiding the healing process. It’s about building a workplace where everyone feels safe, respected, and valued.

Survivors of workplace sexual harassment deserve not just legal protection but compassionate support to overcome the mental health challenges they face. Our approach to handling these sensitive issues can make a profound difference in their recovery and in building a healthier, more inclusive workplace culture.

Supporting Mental Health for Survivors of Sexual Assault Beyond the Workplace

While much of our focus has been on the workplace, it’s crucial to recognize that the mental health impacts of sexual assault extend into all areas of life. Survivors of sexual assault, whether the incident occurred inside or outside of work, face similar challenges and require support to navigate the aftermath of such traumatic experiences.

Understanding the Broader Impacts of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can leave deep psychological scars. Survivors might experience severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other stress-related disorders. These impacts can disrupt their personal and professional lives, affecting relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. The path to recovery varies for each survivor, but understanding and support from the community are universally crucial.

Survivors of sexual assault have specific legal rights that can provide protection and pathways to justice. In California, for instance, survivors can seek protection orders against their assailants, and they may have the right to compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It’s essential for survivors to be aware of these rights and to seek legal counsel to navigate the complex legal landscape effectively.

Encouraging Empathy and Understanding

It’s important for friends, family members, and colleagues of survivors to educate themselves about the realities of sexual assault and its effects. Empathy and understanding are crucial in helping survivors feel supported and not isolated. Simple gestures, like listening without judgment or offering to accompany them to appointments or meetings, can make a significant difference in a survivor’s recovery process.

Our Managing Partner Shares Her Personal Story

Inspired by the survivors Haeggquist & Eck has represented, Alreen Haeggquist wrote the best-selling book Fired Up | Fueling Triumph from Trauma. Alreen shares her personal story of sexual abuse and her path to healing. She includes many ways for survivors to take care of their mental health.


Survivors of sexual assault, whether the incident occurred within or outside the workplace, deserve unwavering support and understanding as they navigate their recovery. By providing access to legal assistance, mental health care, community support, and educational resources, we can help empower survivors and facilitate a healing environment that respects their needs and dignity.

The responsibility to support survivors extends beyond individual interactions; it requires a collective effort to foster a compassionate and informed society. Let’s commit to being part of that supportive network, offering hope and healing to those who have endured these profound challenges.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or harassed, here is a list of mental health resources. If you would like a free case evaluation to see if you can take legal action, give us a call. Your call is confidential and you are under no obligation to proceed with a lawsuit.



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