John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
612-217-4988 877-390-4527

Attention to sexual harassment has not resulted in improvements

Minnesotans and people throughout the United States are undoubtedly aware of the "#MeToo" movement, complete with its social media hashtag and connotations of people from across the workplace spectrum being a victim of sexual harassment. While people sharing their stories of workplace mistreatment can be beneficial as a form of kinship and encouraging victims to come forward and seek justice, it is important to know whether the attention has yielded improvements.

Those who are thinking that the campaign will stop harassment are increasingly mistaken. According to a recent survey, 61 percent of females who took part stated they were still facing sexual harassment as often as before, "#MeToo." Some even said it had grown worse. Women reported sexual harassment to human resources rose to 51 percent in 2019. It was 43 percent in 2018.

For those who did not make reports of the harassment, 41 percent stated they chose to remain silent because the person doing the harassing was directly above them in the workplace hierarchy. That is twice the number of women who said the same thing in 2017.

In 2019, almost 60 percent of women stated that prominent men who were accused of sexual harassment -- such as former morning host Matt Lauer -- should not be allowed to get back to work. That is a rise from 11 percent who said the same the year before.

Although human resources and managers are expected to take the necessary steps to prevent and stop sexual harassment, a study showed that many were not adequately prepared to deal with these issues and other workplace violations. They are not aware of what questions they should ask and cannot clearly detail the workplace policies or the law. If the incidents are clear-cut, such as offensive sexual comments being made, it is easier to take the necessary steps. If, however, the behaviors are in the gray area, it can be more complex. Since it can be difficult to address sexual harassment in the workplace by simply going to HR, it is wise for those who have been harassed in these ways to get it on the record by complaining.

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