Breaking the code of silence: who are the women reporting sex-based discrimination in federal regulatory agencies?

David Lee, Helen H. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study examines women's reporting behaviors in US federal law enforcement and provides an exploratory analysis of individual and occupational variables to describe the women who respond assertively to reporting unlawful workplace behaviors. Design/methodology/approach: Survey responses are collected from sworn female officers employed by two US federal law enforcement agencies who responded “yes” to having experienced sexual harassment (n = 368) and/or sexual discrimination (n = 410) in the workplace. Findings: The findings suggest that individual characteristics such as age, as well as occupational variables such as grade level and tenure duration, significantly impact assertive reporting behaviors for sex-based discrimination. Research limitations/implications: The sample represents those respondents from only two organizations, limiting the sampling frame and generalizability. Practical implications: While these findings are not promising for junior women working in law enforcement, they have important practical implications for agency decision-makers who want to eliminate or reduce unlawful behavior in the workplace. Originality/value: Most of the literature on reporting sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, has focused on why women do not report unlawful behaviors in the workplace, while a limited number of scholars have identified who will respond more assertively when encountering such discriminatory behavior. This article builds on the latter by examining additional occupational and individual variables to the discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-589
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Code of silence
  • Reporting behaviors
  • Sex-based discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Time's Up movement


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