Harassment: The story is just beginning
Harassment: the story is just beginning
It started with Harvey Weinstein. Next was Louis C.K. Then Al Franken, Charlie Rose and John Conyers.
Today’s headliner is Matt Lauer. By the time you read this, more names may be added to the list of alleged sexual predators who are accused of harassing women for years. They are powerful, influential men who have at least one thing in common: They have gotten away with it.
Women who were afraid they would suffer retribution from the men who assaulted them are now coming forward to tell their stories. Until now, these women have been afraid that they would not be believed if they made a report. They are finally being heard and believed. Men are losing their careers and reputations.
Sexual harassment is not limited to the world of politics, journalism and entertainment. Any workplace where a man uses his authority or power to force a woman into an unwanted situation can be affected.
Women have always known for certain when a man has crossed the line. Now the laws against harassment are becoming clearer, and the victim’s options are being spelled out in detail.
Simply put, it is unlawful to harass an employee or job applicant because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Harassment does not have to be of an overtly sexual nature, and it can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
While the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or so severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. It is also illegal if the behavior leads to the victim being fired or demoted.
The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the company, such as a client or customer.
If you have ever faced this kind of situation, the first thing to realize is it was not your fault. Sexual predators, who are accomplished at manipulating others, specialize in blaming their victims, and they will go to great lengths to discredit anyone who reveals what they have done. And, until now, many of them have been able to get away with both the harassment and the blame game.
The exact nature of the offense will determine what action you should take. If the harasser is an employee at your company, the place to start is the company’s human resources department (if there is one), or the supervisor of the person who has committed the harassment. If a non-employee such as an outside salesman has visited your office and harassed you, speak with your supervisor.
Because laws against harassment are very specific, and because they continue to evolve with new court case decisions, you need to meet with a lawyer who has a good working knowledge of employment issues. That lawyer can help map out the best course of action to prevent further harassment and to hold the attacker to account for his actions.
Companies used to excuse harassment with the tired phrase “men will be men.” Times are changing, and that kind of irresponsible attitude is no longer acceptable. Women are speaking out as never before against their abusers, and they are beginning to receive the justice they deserve.