It seems that these days, the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace never leaves the headlines. From Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Roger Ailes last year, to Bill O’Reilly at Fox news, Harvey Weinstein at Miramax, and Kevin Spacey from House of Cards and other major productions, every day brings new stories of men and women who say they were harassed at their place of work.
A positive by-product of the perpetual discussion around the headlines is that efforts to change the status quo seem to finally be taking place. Even before the New York Times broke their story on the Weinstein allegations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had introduced a new large-scale anti-harassment training program. In 2016, the EEOC received a total of 91,500 complaints of which almost 30 percent were for workplace sexual harassment. However, the agency estimates that this number is in no way indicative of the real problem as 75 percent of people who experience sexual harassment at work never report it.
American Workplace Culture
It is not enough for a company to have a policy against sexual harassment in place. Many major American companies have such policies and offer anti-harassment training, but according to a recent survey, only a third of women say their workplace dealt quickly with disrespectful behavior. Despite having anti-harassment policies, procedures, training, and hotlines available to employees, businesses hesitate to share those policies and discuss them openly on record.
The same is true at the board level of American companies. A survey by Qualtrics and The Boardlist found that the mostly female board members they spoke to did not feel comfortable discussing sexual harassment with their male colleagues.
The director of strategic partnerships at the Chicago-based advocacy organization, Women Employed, says the issue of sexual harassment is endemic to the American workplace. Two key areas in need of change are ensuring that employees can easily and safely report incidences of sexual harassment, and changing the workplace culture so that harassment is no longer tolerated.
Others agree that prevention is the best remedy. There must be accountability for what happens within a department, real consequences for harassers, and transparency in resolving any complaints. Additionally, private settlements with non-disclosure agreements such as those revealed in the New York Times investigation of Harvey Weinstein are about protecting the company from being sued, not ending harassment.
An Expensive Business Practice
At the very least, companies might be waking up to how much workplace sexual harassment can cost them. Ford had to pay $10 million to settle an EEOC lawsuit over sexual and racial discrimination alleged to have taken place at two Chicago area plants. Overall, the EEOC recovered $164.5 million in compensation for sexual harassment victims in 2015. With more people coming forward with allegations every day, companies that do not change can expect to pay for it.
Marlton Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment
If you have experienced sexual harassment at your place of work and have questions about your legal options, speak to an experienced Marlton sexual harassment lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. An initial consultation is free and confidential, and our skilled attorneys will give you a clear assessment of your claim and provide you with experienced counsel should you decide to seek compensation.