The #MeToo Movement and Harassment in the Workplace
The #MeToo movement dominated the headlines of 2017. It was the largest sexual harassment event of the generation, and its effects are still lingering on in the workplace. The ‘Silence Breakers’ from the movement were collectively named the 2017 Person of the Year by TIME and for the last several years stories of harassment and abuse in all sectors of business have been pouring out. While its evident that people are taking notice of the movement, the real question is what type of impact #MeToo has really had in the workplace.
#MetToo Led to An Increase in Harassment Complaints in 2018
On paper, it is clear that the #MeToo movement has embodied women to speak up about harassment in the workplace. In 2018 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported a 12% increase in sexual harassment charges which was the first notable rise in the previous five years. In 2018 The EEOC was able to recover about $70 million for sexual harassment complaints.
General Awareness of Internal Harassment Made Evident by #MeToo Movement
The figures alone indicate that women are starting to speak up. They also show that despite the new awareness, men are still not afraid to blur lines in the workplace. Heightened awareness is still not totally protecting women from harassment in the workplace. It is clear that employees and employers are still trying to find their footing in the new #MeToo age.
Shift in the Role of Company Lawyers
Company lawyers are beginning to acknowledge the shift in the workplace response to sexual harassment claims. In the past, they may have been encouraged to strongly resist, blame the victim, and settle with employees in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement, or may have been told to bury complaints. In today’s #MeToo setting, companies are more willing to work for the victims and put the complainant on notice. Many companies are also taking a look at past complaints that may be past the statute of limitation, simply to be aware of potential issues moving forward.
Are You the Victim of Sexual Harassment at Work?
Despite the heightened awareness, the sad truth is that women are still highly likely to be victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you believe that you are a victim, then you need to speak up for your right to a safe workplace. You should first speak to your supervisor and then if necessary the company HR department. It helps to document, record or photograph the perpetrator. There are many organizations that have not yet addressed the new landscape of the #MeToo reality however, so if you work for one that is not taking proper action you may need the help of a lawyer. Our dedicated harassment attorneys offer years of experience helping clients navigate sexual harassment claims and we encourage you to reach out for help if you aren’t getting a resolution from your employer.