Hollywood scandal spreads light on workplace sexual harassment

In the weeks since allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein surfaced, thousands of people have come forward with their own experiences. A number of actors and actresses have revealed accusations against powerful men in Hollywood. The recent social media campaign against sexual harassment, called Me Too, left millions around the world feeling empowered to share their own stories. Workplace sexual harassment is in the spotlight, showing just how prevalent the issue has become.

According to the EEOC, 25 percent of women say they have experienced workplace sexual harassment. Unfortunately, this number does not paint a complete picture the problem. The EEOC estimates that 75 percent of sexual harassment victims do not report the issue.

Workplace sexual harassment often go unreported

Incidents go unreported partially because most people do not accurately understand the term "workplace sexual harassment." The amount of women who say they have been sexually harassed on the job rises to 40 percent when the same study of women were asked about their experience with behaviors that constitute as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment does not need to involve physical harassment. It can mean anything from suggestive remarks to requests for sexual behavior. In fact, it does not need to occur in the office at all. Your employer may still be held responsible if your boss exhibits unwanted sexual behavior during the after-work happy hour at the local bar.

Another reason that incidents go unreported is because victims of sexual harassment often partially blame themselves. They think they cannot file a sexual harassment claim because they somehow put themselves in a precarious situation. For example, many of the actresses who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment showed up to meetings or auditions held in the movie mogul's hotel rooms. Many felt powerless to take action not only due to uneven power dynamics, but because the situation took place outside of the typical workplace. However, location does not matter. The actions still constitute as workplace sexual harassment.

What can victims of harassment do?

Employers are legally required to provide a safe place to work, free from harassment. Workers are protected through state and federal laws prohibiting unwanted sexual behavior. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace then you may seek compensation for lost earnings and emotional distress that resulted from the experience. Contact an attorney specializing in employment law to file a sexual harassment claim.

Recent light shed on sexual harassment in the workplace illustrates how often workers become victims at their jobs. Fortunately, it has opened a dialogue for change. Ideally, robust anti-harassment policies can mitigate the issue, but only real consequences for harassers will truly put an end to the behavior.

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