John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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#MeToo movement may have unintended negative consequences

The #MeToo movement, which has involved a backlash against sexual harassment at the workplace, has generally been a good thing, especially for women. In a wide range of work environments, the #MeToo movement has made it more likely that both men and women will report sexual harassment promptly and will try to avoid even the appearance of inappropriate behavior.

However, one possible drawback to the movement, if it can be described as such, is that some men and even a handful of women with hiring authority have indicated that they are willing to discriminate against women, ostensibly to avoid sexual harassment claims. Specifically, over 20% of men and 12% of women with hiring authority admitted that they would be less likely to hire women when the position would require traveling or other close collaboration with the opposite sex. Of course, there may be many others who would be unwilling to admit this form of bias.

Interesting, about 20% of men who were asked also said that they would be less likely to hire a woman that they perceived as attractive. Even 6% of women said they would also be disinclined to hire a woman who they saw as attractive. The same study also suggested that a majority of men who were in a managerial role would have some hesitation about engaging in activities with female subordinates that are customarily seen as ways to advance a career, like networking in a social setting or collaborating on a project.

While it could be arising for a number of reasons, it is important to note that gender discrimination in other forms, including refusing to hire women or refusing to give them the same work opportunities as their male counterparts, is also illegal. In other words, the solution is not to keep women out of the workplace but to make sure that the environment is safe for men and women alike.

A Minnesota worker who has been victimized by sexual harassment or some other form of discrimination may have legal options available to her. In some instances it is only through exploring these legal options that these victims are able to achieve the outcomes that are necessary to protect their best interests.

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