The explosion of the Me Too Movement has brought sexual assault and harassment front and center. With the use of the #MeToo on social media, the movement has become viral and helped expose the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. With high profile celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman showing their support, the movement has gained momentum and enabled victims to speak up. The campaign started after sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein led to his dismissal from his company and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; this lead to the global trend called the “Weinstein effect.”
The Weinstein effect opened a floodgate of allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful or famous men. From the entertainment industry to politics, even a judge from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, have been accused of sexual harassment, the latter announcing his immediate retirement a few days after the accusations. This situation goes to show that social media can be a very powerful tool to help people connect and convey their stories, making them realize that they are not alone. Men and women who were victims of sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace across multiple industries have started to speak up.
The movement has prompted the state of California to consider passing a bill that bans secret sexual harassment settlements. According to Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), the senator who plans to introduce the bill, these secret settlements puts the public in jeopardy, especially potential future victims. These secret settlements also enable perpetrators to escape justice just because they have the money to pay for the cost of settlements. She states that the bill will make sure that sexual predators can be held accountable for their actions and would ideally prevent sexual misconducts from happening to other people.
While the #MeToo movement has opened the doors for discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace, a lot of work still needs to be done. Companies need to have a clear-cut policy against sexual harassment on their employee handbook. Make sure that there’s an entire section devoted to explaining what sexual harassment is, and emphasize that your company will not tolerate this. State the punishment for anyone who will be proven to be sexually harassing employees in your company. Provide your employees with a clear procedure on how to file sexual harassment complaints. Assure them that their claims will be thoroughly investigated and that retaliation against employees who file a case will not be tolerated.
Companies should also train their employees, supervisors, and managers about sexual harassment. For employee training, you aim to educate your employees what sexual harassment is. Take the opportunity to review your complaint procedure, and encourage your employees to use it to report sexual harassment. For supervisor and manager training, you should instruct them to treat any complaint of sexual harassment seriously and how to deal with these complaints. Monitoring employee conducts within the workplace and asking them about the work environment will also give you an idea on how to make things better for your employees.
California, Connecticut, and Maine are a few of the jurisdictions that require sexual harassment training. Although it is not mandatory for all the states, employers are encouraged to provide these training since it can improve employee morale by letting them know that you care about their well-being. These training can also help you if ever you find yourself in a lawsuit since you’ll be able to show that you took the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
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