The #MeToo movement has given a voices to countless people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Beginning with the entertainment industry, it has demonstrated time and again that unwelcome sexual conduct is a pervasive problem, and that it is often a very poorly kept secret. Much of what we have learned is not news for New York City sexual harassment lawyers or their clients. Now that #MeToo has been around for almost two years, researchers have acquired enough data to assess its impact. What they are finding, unfortunately, is not uniformly good news. While it seems as though most people understand what constitutes sexual harassment, few people agree on how to address it. A disquieting number of people, both men and women, seem willing to avoid sexual harassment by excluding women from the workplace altogether, and therefore replacing one form of unlawful sex discrimination with another.
Sexual harassment is considered sex discrimination under laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identifies three general categories of conduct that constitutes unlawful sexual harassment. Two of those are examples of “quid pro quo sexual harassment”: submission to sexual behavior is a condition of employment, whether that is stated or implied; or employment decisions depend on how an employee responds to sexual overtures or remarks. The third type of sexual harassment identified by the EEOC, hostile work environment, occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct “unreasonably interfer[es] with an individual’s work performance” or otherwise renders the work environment intolerable. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a)(3).
Civil rights activist Tarana Burke coined the term “Me Too” in 2006. In 2017, its use as a hashtag on the social media platform Twitter gave the #MeToo movement its name. The movement is generally agreed to have begun in October 2017, when the New York Times published an actress’ allegations of sexual harassment by a prominent Hollywood producer. Many more women and men spoke out about their experiences with sexual harassment. People did not just talk about the perpetrators. They also talked about the environments that allow such conduct to continue unchecked. Many people tolerate, or even abet, such workplace behavior, perhaps because that often seems easier than standing up against it.
In August 2019, the Harvard Business Review reported on research conducted by a group of management and business professors, using different surveys for men and women in a variety of industries. Some results were upsetting, but not surprising, such as the almost two-thirds of women who reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment at least once. Of that number, only twenty percent said that they reported the incident.
Other results suggest that women do not have much faith in men’s ability to adapt to a changing workplace, such as how more than half of the female respondents “expected that men would continue to harass but would take more precautions against getting caught.” A significant number of male respondents, meanwhile, indicated that they would be “reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions with men,” along with hesitance about other hiring decisions.
Phillips & Associates’ experienced and knowledgeable New York City sexual harassment lawyers advocate on behalf of New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers, helping them assert their rights in claims under federal, state, and municipal law. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.