The growth of the #MeToo movement has led to more research in the area of workplace harassment. To those in California, it probably comes as no surprise that the media industry has a very high rate of harassment. However, a recent study shows that other white-collar sectors also allow unwanted sexual advances far too frequently.
Victims of workplace harassment in California might suspect that individuals engage in harassing behavior because they want to exert power. A new report from university researchers adds nuance to this explanation. Worries about inadequate job performance could motivate some people to harass their subordinates. According to the report, high-level executives are not the only ones prone to this behavior. Insecurity might drive lower-level supervisors to intimidate subordinates as well.
A California senator is co-sponsoring a bill designed to protect women at work by targeting the imbalance of power between employees and employers. The bill has been called the EMPOWER Act, short for the Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace harassment through Education and Reporting Act. California Sen. Kamala Harris said perpetrators of sexual harassment have created a culture of silence and fear that must end.
The new Interior Secretary for the United States came into office promising to have zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment within his department. This strong stance could soon be tested as the head of the National Park Service is under fire for making an inappropriate gesture in front of other employees. California residents could know the results of the investigation into the matter by the end of June.
Some employees in California who face sexual harassment at work may be reluctant to report it. According to a study by CareerBuilder, almost three-fourths of people who are harassed at work do not report report their incidents, and over half say they never confront the harasser. Fear of retaliation is one of several reasons people may not pursue a sexual harassment claim.
Many workers in California are forced to deal with workplace harassment and discrimination. While these two terms are often used together, they are distinct. Discrimination usually involves work-related unfair treatment based on a protected category like race or gender. For example, if a woman is denied a promotion due the fact she is a woman, she is the subject of discrimination. Harassment may happen at work, but it isn't directly related to work. A manager may make belittling or derogatory comments about a person's religion, for example. While these two issues are separate, with differing legal standards, they also share a critical link that employers may overlook.
California employees are offered protection against sexual harassment and other types of workplace harassment and discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act in addition to federal law, but this is not the case in every state. In many states, employees are vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect independent contractors or employees at companies that have fewer than 15 workers.
Although employment law has addressed the problem of sexual harassment for many years, workplaces throughout the state could come under greater scrutiny if proposed bills achieve approval. SB-1343, AB-1867 and AB-2366 address issues like training and record keeping.
There has been an upswing in attention paid to sexual harassment and gender discrimination concerns in the workplace in California and throughout the country, especially after recent scandals in Hollywood and national politics. However, despite the increased attention to the issue, statistics indicate that sexual harassment complaints have actually dropped significantly in the past 20 years. For example, in 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 16,000 complaints related to sexual harassment; in 2017, that number was reduced to 9,600. This reflects a decline of over 40 percent.
In an unusual display of bipartisan cooperation, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill on Feb. 6 that would reform the way that Congress handles allegations of sexual harassment. Backers of the bill include California Democrat Jackie Speier and senior members of the House Administration Committee, but some have criticized the proposed rules because they make it more difficult for members of the public to learn about inappropriate behavior on Capitol Hill and place roadblocks in the way of sexual harassment victims who wish to sue their abusers.