While movements like #MeToo have drawn attention to the serious problem of workplace sexual harassment, too many workers find that they make complaints but see little action. Workers are often all too aware that the primary role of a human resources department is to protect the interests of the company rather than to ensure a safe, positive employment environment for all workers. Therefore, they may be hesitant to make a report about harassing behavior on the job, especially when the perpetrator is an executive, board member or other high-ranking official or employee. They may try to manage the problem on their own or avoid the harasser as much as possible.
Florida residents who follow celebrity news may be aware that Robert De Niro is embroiled in a legal battle with one of his Illinois-based film production company's former vice presidents. The woman, who resigned her position in April, claims that the 76-year-old actor acted inappropriately toward her and gave her demeaning tasks to perform. De Niro alleges that his former executive used her company credit card to pay personal expenses and spent hours each day binge-watching television shows instead of working.
On Sept. 26, local government officials from 31 states sent a letter to McDonald's Corp urging the company to improve sexual harassment protections for workers in Florida and across the country. The letter, which supports an employee-led campaign on the same issue, was sent by advocacy organization Local Progress.
Reality TV fans in Florida might remember Angelina Pivarnick on "Jersey Shore." She appeared on the show in 2009 and 2010 before returning in 2018 to film revival episodes. In her life outside the television show, she works as an emergency medical technician for the New York City Fire Department's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. On Sept. 16, she filed a lawsuit against the city for allegedly being sexually harassed by two male lieutenants working at the department.
Workers in Florida and throughout the country may recall the walkout engineered by Google employees in 2018. Roughly 20,000 people took part in the event protesting the company's treatment of executives who were accused of sexual harassment. Although Google said that it would work to be more supportive of those who reported such issues, employees say that this isn't the case. Employees have also said that they were demoted or otherwise retaliated against after bringing their concerns to HR.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more than 50% of claims filed with the agency in 2018 were related to retaliation by employers. Generally speaking, employers in Florida and around the country are not allowed to retaliate against employees for taking part in a protected activity. For instance, an employee cannot be punished for making a sexual harassment or gender discrimination complaint against a company. In some cases, retaliation can occur even if a company didn't engage in harassment or discrimination.
A study that was just recently released found that some men in Florida and throughout the country are more hesitant to work with woman. The research was conducted by the University of Houston during 2018, which was the peak of MeToo awareness. Survey participants were also questioned in 2019 after the movement somewhat faded out of the public spotlight. Of men who took part in the survey, 27% said that they don't meet alone with female colleagues.
As awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace grows, bars in Florida and around the country may also need to examine their practices and make sure they are protecting employees and customers. A July conference in New Orleans included a session on dealing with sexual harassment and violence in the hospitality industry. One of the key points from the panel was that focusing on the role of alcohol was a distraction. Furthermore, hospitality does not mean ignoring bad behavior from customers.
Women workers in a wide range of industries continue to deal with harassment and discrimination on the job in Florida and other states. Riot Games, the developer of the widely popular "League of Legends," recently settled a class-action lawsuit that had been brought by workers who said they were subject to sex discrimination in the workplace. The lawsuit, brought in November 2018, also alleged that the company violated California's Equal Pay Act. It was filed after a journalist's report highlighted instances of sexist culture and mistreatment of female employees at the company. Several current and former workers spoke to journalists about problems at the games manufacturer.
Despite legal requirements that employers in Florida provide their employees with safe workplaces, sexual harassment remains a serious problem. To develop sexual harassment training with a results-oriented approach, employers should define goals, use group discussions and provide a call to action. Defining goals allows for the creation of a safety-oriented work culture. Employers should choose verbiage that has company-specific meaning. Every industry and organization has its own objectives and vernacular. Making use of relevant language gives the exercise resonance.