From Hollywood producers and media moguls to Washington politicians and boardroom executives, the recent “Me Too” movement has brought down some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. While the sexual harassment and abuse allegations and lawsuits against Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and President Trump make headlines, the “Me Too” movement is also shining a light on millions of other women who have been subjected to lewd comments, inappropriate touching and physical assault in the workplace.
If you are an employee who has or is experiencing sexual harassment at work, it’s important to understand your rights and the steps you can take to enforce those rights. No employee, regardless of profession, position, income or sexual orientation, should tolerate sexual harassment. Moreover, sexual harassment in an employment setting is illegal and legal action should be taken to hold perpetrators and condoning parties accountable.
Suffering In Silence
In discussing workplace sexual discrimination and harassment for a recent Everyday Health article, attorney Gloria Allred declared that “sexual harassment is a pervasive problem.” Unfortunately, the vast majority of women who experience sexual harassment at work don’t report it. In some cases, a woman may question whether an act constitutes sexual discrimination or harassment. In other cases, a woman may fear retaliation by an employer or backlash by colleagues if she does come forward.
In addition to the negative emotional and sometimes physical side effects of sexual harassment and discrimination, Allred adds that these acts, “interfere with an employee’s right to enjoy equal opportunity and that’s why it’s against the law. In many cases, it’s also an abuse of power.”
Taking Action Against Sexual Discrimination And Harassment
Many employers have strict guidelines when it comes to workplace discrimination and reporting sexual harassment. While employers may encourage employees to report incidents of discrimination, harassment and abuse to their human resources department, such protocols often serve to benefit employers and may not adequately protect the employees’ interests.
Employees must take steps to protect their rights such as consulting with an attorney prior to filing a complaint with an HR department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It’s also important to document the harassment and discrimination that is happening by taking detailed notes as it happens and to take steps to preserve any texts, photos or other corroborating evidence.
A Time Of Reckoning
This period in time has been called a reckoning for women and women’s rights. Women feel empowered that their voices will finally be heard if they speak up against workplace sexual harassment. These rights must extend to every workplace in the United States, empowering women who have suffered discrimination and harassment to come forward, tell their stories, be heard and demand action.