The recent revelations that rocked the entertainment industry have led to the exposure of a culture of harassment in workplaces throughout Colorado. When women around the world shared stories of harassment and sexual assault using the #MeToo, residents of Colorado learned of misconduct within the state government. After the initial accusations were made, some questioned the lack of harassment claims filed since so many in the Capital seemed to be aware of what happened. In reality, the claims and lack of reporting are normal since in every industry, including the state government, employers rarely take effective action when harassment is reported. Employer neutrality is often questioned in harassment claims and as Colorado residents are demanding stronger workplace protections, formal complaints are increasing.
A Tough Call
Lack of workplace harassment training is often cited in cases of employers failing to act quickly or appropriately when an employee accuses a coworker of harassment. However, victims of workplace harassment believe the lack of protection they received was influenced by their employer’s inability to make a clear decision regarding how to proceed. Immediate and direct actions are not the norm since companies fear facing retaliation from either party.
Neutrality and Conflicts of Interest
When harassment is alleged, employers find themselves in a situation where more than one employee believes his or her position is “right” and that the employer should be his or her advocate. In reality, the employer’s primary concern is protecting themselves from possible repercussions. A case of harassment may be treated as a mild workplace conflict with limited or nonexistent disciplinary actions.
Even when a company does have clearly defined penalties for harassment, there are sometimes loopholes that protect the company itself from consequences or help mitigate disaster. A tax reform bill amendment supported by Colorado’s Republican Representative seeks to prevent companies from writing off sexual harassment settlements and associated legal fees as business expenses, drawing attention to the way business owners often prioritize their bottom lines instead of their employees. The move is viewed as one of the first steps in holding companies more accountable for failing to address harassment complaints.
An Ongoing Problem
In spite of accusations of widespread harassment that continues to go unchecked, the problem is escalating. Throughout late October and early November of 2017 the complaints and accusations continue to mount as lawmakers, lobbyists, and staff members throughout Colorado share their stories. Women and men who have been harassed by those who should have intimate knowledge of Federal and State harassment law fear wrongful termination or retaliation if they come forward.
Protect Your Rights
If you believe your employer is more interested in protecting themselves than protecting you from harassment or retaliatory action, it is time to seek legal representation. An employment attorney can discuss your situation with you and help you determine how best to proceed. The attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to defend your rights regardless of the size of the company employing you. Contact our conveniently located Denver, Colorado office today to schedule an initial consultation today.