The Times They Are a-Changin’. Or Are They?
At MGMTinsight, we’ve spent our careers working in corporate America and coaching leaders. The workplace has changed for women over the past 30+ years, but the issue of sexual harassment continues to be a challenge. Oftentimes, high-profile employees perceive themselves as exempt from workplace rules or immune from the consequences of their misconduct.
Sexual harassment is sexual discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment covers unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and unwelcome sexual verbal or physical conduct.
“Is he pestering you?” That was the phrase used back in the day. Sexual harassment has been part of the experience for women in the workplace forever. We have plenty of real life examples of harassment, but it can also be useful to look at TV shows and movies to see how things have changed in the past few decades.
The ‘60s-era drama “Mad Men” presented a nostalgic view of the “good old days” in the workplace. “Mad Men” offers a good way to examine how our attitudes have changed. The typical work environment was depicted in the media back then with men always in the dominant role. The “Mad Men” character Peggy Olsen is seen as the career girl, the idealistic feminist wanting a career and influence. Peggy was ambitious and worked hard to be successful in the advertising world, which was presided over by an all-male group at the time. In achieving success, she modeled her behavior on the men she worked for. However, Peggy is bound by the stereotypes, gender roles, and the overall sexism of the “Mad Men” era. The women of “Mad Men” faced sexual comments and other behavior that would be viewed as sexual harassment in today’s workplace.
Sexual harassment has been used to sustain power inequalities and to maintain the status quo in the workplace. So, it’s no surprise that some leaders and staff who grew up in this era have a hard time making the shift to the current workplace climate. A high-profile example of this is the allegations made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who entered the workforce in 1983 when his father was governor. Current and former employees have described the governor’s office under Cuomo as a toxic workplace, particularly for young women. One former aide accused the Governor of creating this environment through a series of sexual tweets. Based on what the former aide describes as sexual comments, she surmised that the Governor was trying to sleep with her. An executive assistant to the Governor accused him of sexual harassment, which included his asking questions about her sex life. The Governor was also accused of inappropriate touching on the back and face of another young woman.
The actions of some people who harass others hasn’t changed, but they are now starting to be held accountable for behavior that was just winked at previously. With more women speaking up about their challenges, however, harassment is being brought out into the light and taken seriously.
“I am hopeful that others who have suffered sexual harassment will not become discouraged by my experience, but instead will find the strength to speak out about this serious problem.” — Anita Hill
So, what has changed?
Our culture has changed since the 1960’s. Employees are now filing sexual harassment claims for behavior that was previously ignored. As we have seen with Harvey Weinstein, former President Bill Clinton, Cuomo, and many other high-profile individuals, no one is exempt from workplace rules or immune from the consequences of their misconduct.
What none of us, including those in the workplace, anticipated are two things: 1) social media and 2) the Me Too movement. These two factors have put leaders and businesses in the spotlight along with their brand and reputation when sexual harassment is an issue in their workplace.
Protect yourself and your business against sexual harassment claims with the policies and training that keep you compliant.
What policies and procedures do you have in place to ensure compliance with sexual harassment laws in your workplace?
Are your leaders and employees trained on sexual harassment? Do they understand what sexual harassment is? Do your employees know what to do if there is a sexual harassment issue?
Do you have protocols in place to address and investigate harassment claims before an outside agency gets involved?
Does your team understand that retaliation against someone who claims sexual harassment can be as big an issue as the harassment itself?
Do you realize the serious legal and financial consequences of a sexual harassment claim?
We can help.
Contact us today for more information.
Remember, supervisory training for those who manage your employees is a good investment and is important to your business. We here at MGMTinsight can help. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.