The year 2017 will forever go down in history as the year that Hollywood came together and held the men in power accountable for failing to create safe, comfortable workspaces for everyone. Names like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Morgan Spurlock, and Kevin Spacey populated news headlines. A number of people came forward, making their voices heard and accusing them of sexual harassment, ultimately forcing them down from their thrones. Perhaps 40 years ago this would not have made such headlines, but today half of the workforce is made up of women. With the accessibility of the internet, movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp shed light on an experience many people have in common.
Surveys conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report that of its 90,000 discrimination complaints received in 2015 alone, one-third were due to sexual harassment. Although it can be easy to think that only women make these claims, according to the EEOC, men make up anywhere between 8 to 16% of these claims. Emily Martin, Vice President of Workplace Justice for the National Women’s Law Center, says, “sexual harassment is an expression of power and hostility,” and anyone can be victim to predatory behavior in the workplace.
Understanding Sexual Harassment and its Role in the Workplace
The EEOC also estimates that 75% of workplace harassment goes unreported. Reasons can range from not understanding what constitutes sexual harassment to lack of understanding of the companies’ policies, fear of losing one’s job, or simply fearing that no one will believe the accusation. There is a lot of gray area surrounding sexual harassment.
Other studies conducted by the EEOC also found that when questions regarding sexual harassment are direct and straightforward, more people will admit to having experienced sexual harassment. Thanks to these findings, workplace policies are more specific when detailing sexual harassment in their employee handbooks, perhaps allowing for the events of 2017 to have occurred.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is punishable both at the state and federal level. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, outlines the type of sexual discrimination that can constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. Oregon state law defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature (verbal, physical, or visual) that is directed toward an individual because of gender.”
While on a state level, victims have a limited number of days (300) to file a claim under the Civil Rights Act, Title VII. If you believe you have been harassed in any way, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. For legal advice, contact HKM Employment Attorneys at 503-389-1130 (available 24/7). We have the legal expertise to assist you. We can also provide a consultation. Any information provided will be kept confidential.