The #MeToo movement started in 2006, but wasn’t really popularized until 2017, after the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein sparked women to step forward. Many women then began to use the hashtag, on social media, to share their stories of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. From high-profile actresses, to church leaders, to businesswomen, the wide range media coverage of their tales lead to a series of firings, company policy changes, and a lot of backlash against the alleged harassers.
The ripple effects of this popular movement have touched almost every industry as employers take a hard look at their own company cultures and policies and, generally, attempt to make changes that further protect women from harassment and abuse in the workplace.
A major criticism of the #MeToo movement is that it has led to false accusations, little fact-checking, and firings that would otherwise not have occurred. While false accusations are certainly less common than real ones, businesses are encouraged to take the time to do full fact checking inquiry before making a decision to terminate an employee. However, with a growing trend to speak up, and more pressure on employers to respond in a manner deemed favorable to women, some concerns about an employer’s motives for its actions have arisen.
In 2018, President Trump accused Dr. Ford of falsely accusing his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh, of attempted rape. This lead to days long hearings and Congressional investigations as to whether her allegation were legitimate, or whether she was using the #MeToo movement to attempt to manipulate politics. Also in 2018, the story of a woman’s sexual encounter with actor-comedian, Aziz Ansari, faced backlash when many readers felt that she was not describing a sexual assault, but rather gray or ambiguous actions during that encounter that she exploited to create sensationalist content.
The official #MeToo Movement, run by Tarana Burke, has listed some specific objective she would like to achieve. These include processing untested rape kits, better vetting for teachers, updating sexual harassment policies, and improving workplace training. While the organization was founded in 2006 with the focus of helping the victims of sexual violence get the support and healing they needed, particularly minority and low income women, it nonetheless has taken advantage of the increased attention. The #MeToo hashtag has greatly increased community awareness of the work they do.
Sexual Abuse and Harassment in the Workplace
While the #MeToo movement has raised awareness and provided employers with a variety of tools to implement in their businesses, it hasn’t cured the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” It is also considered harassment to make inappropriate comments about women in general, even if the comment is not targeted at a specific woman.
Although offhand comments, teasing, and isolated incidents are generally not prohibited by law, frequent or severe harassment is. That would be behavior that creates a hostile work environment, or harassment that creates an adverse impact to an individual’s career.
If you think you are facing, or have faced, sexual harassment at work and it is becoming uncomfortable, reach out to the attorneys at Phillips & Associates to discuss the situation and possible next steps. We are a big firm that only represents employees, so you won’t be out gunned by the big firm your old employer hires to defend itself. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.
At Phillips & Associates - We Level the Playing Field
Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while employees may have just lost their jobs, have very little money, and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience, and the resources to properly litigate their case.
Phillips & Associates is one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, nationality, criminal convictions, sexual orientation and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently Phillips & Associates was selected as one of the "10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms" in New York" by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.