The #MeToo movement has helped shift the tide in public response to rampant sexual harassment and sometimes assault people, especially women of color, face in the workplace. Ellen Bravo gives us a rundown of the things most folks don't know about the systemic barriers employers face when dealing with sexual harassment at work and the steps we can take to guarantee protections.
by Ellen Bravo
How will we know we’re nearing a tipping point on ending sexual harassment?
When the stories in the news are not just about actresses and wealthy, high-profile women, but about the men who harass women who serve our food, pick our crops, clean our offices, staff the call centers and make things run in our homes.
Why aren’t we reading those stories now? Because these are the women society fails to see, especially when their skin is dark. The problem isn’t that these women are voiceless — it's that their voices are not the ones that decision-makers and opinion leaders listen to. Women in these jobs also face huge barriers to taking the kind of action needed.
In all the media attention given to high-profile sexual harassment cases, here are a few points you likely don’t know:
• Many employees have nowhere to turn if they experience unwanted sexual behavior at work. No law requires a company to have a sexual harassment policy or channels to report a problem. If the company is found liable for sexual misconduct, the fact that it did nothing to prevent it may count against it — but the employer is not subject to any penalty otherwise.
• Employees who do take action often pay a high price. A 2003 study found that 75% of those who spoke out about mistreatment on the job experienced retaliation. When you’re struggling to put food on the table and the boss can not only kick you off this job but hurt your chances of getting another one, enduring harassment is an unwritten requirement of the job.