Workplace Sexual Harassment in a #MeToo World
More Than Just A Movement
Sexual harassment reports in the workplace have remained pretty consistent over the years. However the recent #MeToo movement, a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, shed light on many issues that employers must now address. Celebrities, CEOs, executives, and founders have been seen on the news for resigning, being fired, or even faced with charges due to sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement is more than just a movement. It is a label for people who are against sexual harassment, who have experienced it, or who have left a job because of it, which can put a target on an employee’s back. So, what does #MeToo mean for those of us in the non-Hollywood working world?
How does the #MeToo Movement Affect Today’s Workplace?
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as some state and local statutes. Employers are obligated to protect employees from sexual harassment according to Title VII. If an employer is aware of sexual harassment from co-workers, managers, or from non-employees and fails to take action, the employer can be liable for harassment charges.
The purpose of the #MeToo movement is to make it easier for employees to come forward about sexual harassment and assault. It has created a platform for those affected to speak openly about their experiences. Sexual harassment is often brushed under the rug by comments such as “he’s a good guy,” and “she’s a good person.” This language gives the impression that a person could not possibly be capable of sexual harassment, when the reality is that we’re all human. People may be hesitant to report harassment due to fear of retaliation or not being taken seriously. Because of this, it is important for organizations and employers to create clearly defined policies and procedures to ensure individuals feel comfortable and safe reporting their concerns.
What Affects Can Sexual Harassment Have On Employees?
- Lost productivity
- Decreased morale
- Physical Health
- Emotional well-being
- An exodus of employees
- Damages to a company’s brand
What Men Should Know About #MeToo: It’s About Them, Too
It’s time for men to join the conversation about sexual harassment. Many men are sexually harassed in the workplace – so why aren’t they speaking out?
A common misconception is that sexual harassment only happens to women.
In a long-term study done by the American Sociological Review of 522 workers, up to 58% of women and 37% of men reported experiencing some level of sexual harassment. This sample seems to indicate that the gap is not as wide as some believe.
There are a lot suggested reasons for this – stigma being one of them. Many men may be too embarrassed to report sexual harassment, or they may consider it to be “unmanly” to report such behavior. Or, they may feel as if nobody will believe them. Actor Brandon Fraser reported in 2003 that he had be “groped by a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).” He described the incident as traumatic. Brandon reported it, but felt like “somebody threw invisible paint on him.” Why aren’t men heard like women?
A prime example of sexual harassment for men being brushed aside is actor Terry Crews. Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews filed a lawsuit stemming from an encounter at a party in 2016 when he says a high-powered Hollywood agent, Adam Venit, groped him. Crews filed a lawsuit against WME and Venit, which was later dismissed by the Los Angeles District Attorney, citing the statute of limitations. Venit, who denied the allegations, was suspended and later demoted. Crews was one of the first male actors in Hollywood to speak out during the Me Too movement.
It’s never acceptable for someone to feel uncomfortable, belittled or afraid, especially at a place where they must go each day to earn a living. A future where all are respected in the workplace is a brighter one. KM&A attorneys are experienced and well-equipped in handling cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. If you feel like this is happening to you, contact KM&A today for a consultation.