This year marks the 5th anniversary after the #MeToo movement that illuminated the terrible reality of sexual harassment and abuse of authority within the workplace. The movement, which is believed to have been started by Tarana Burke in 2006 to support survivors of sexual assault, exploded in 2017 and marked a cultural phenomenon. Millions of sexual harassment and assault survivors shared their stories of abuse, which led to national recognition of how pervasive the problems are in society. While it is clear that the #MeToo movement shifted public perception on the issue for the better, and while many abusers had to face the music after survivors spoke their truth, there is no national cure for sexual harassment and assault. Sexual harassment and assault continues to be grossly underreported and there has been no legislative movement to protect citizens.
At Hurwitz Law we are actively litigating cases involving sexual harassment and assault. One thing that never seems to change is that the individuals and companies accused of committing awful acts invariably attempt to “circle the wagons” and deny fault. Companies likely understand that if they were to ever admit fault, they would have to pay more money to victims. Because of that, employers deny allegations and attack the victims. Unfortunately, the law protects employers by providing a series of hurdles that victims have to jump before they can bring to light credible allegations and start the process of righting all of the wrongs that occur.
That means there is nothing easy for the 330 million people in the United States who have faced sexual harassment and violence when it comes to getting justice. Those brave enough to contact our firm are treated with dignity and respect. We help them fight for their rights, while protecting their confidentiality.
Neeraja Sanmuhanathan, a Senior Sexual Assault Counsellor and Lecturer in Counseling, asserts that fear of disclosure prevents victims from coming forward. Victim-blaming is all too common. Survivors tend to stay silent is due to fear that they will be met with negative responses, such as disbelief, character attacks, and shame. At a recent deposition involving one of our sexual assault survivor clients, the employer asked numerous questions about the employee’s sexual history—seemingly trying to show that my client deserved the abuse that she suffered. We still operate under laws that are decades old and seem to favor the victim, so as attorneys it is our job to protect clients and help them be brave and speak their truth in the face of shameful litigation tactics.
If you are one of the millions of sexual harassment survivors in this country, please be advised that Hurwitz Law can help. There are two types of sexual harassment. The first is called “hostile work environment,” which could be severe or pervasive behavior of a sexual nature. The second form of workplace sexual harassment is called “quid pro quo,” which occurs when someone in management asks for or demands sexual favors in return for job security. It is critical to note that these situations can still constitute harassment even if you do not say “no” or report the issue.
We advise that individuals suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace do the following:
- First, document the events by saving evidence like text messages, emails, letters, photos, etc. Keep a journal about any incidents of harassment or assault.
- After you consult with an attorney, you can make a formal complaint by reporting the issue to human resources. Unfortunately, it is my experience that human resources tends to sweep the issue under the rug and is primarily concerned about the company’s financial interests and not the victim’s best interests.
- If your employer does not help you, you should report to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, the law that forbids sexual harassment in the workplace. If you need any assistance with this, please contact our office—we can help!
If you have suffered sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, Hurwitz Law PLLC will fight for you!