As employment discrimination and sexual harassment lawyers, we have been discussing the impacts of the recent sexual harassment scandals. From the initial Weinstein allegations to Congressional allegations and Roy Moore, all the way up until the silence breakers were named Time Magazine Person(s) of the Year, there has been a waterfall of new revelations every day. As though some metaphorical or psychological dam was holding back the floodwaters of harassment allegations, the dam suddenly broke and now everything is coming out. Sexual harassment attorneys have always known that workplace harassment was a bigger issue than many had believed, but not even we knew that it was this pervasive across so many different industries.
Now knowing that all of these harassment victims are out there due to a combination of both small-time and big-time predators in the workplace, where does it go from here? Now that the silence is broken, what does it all mean and will it change anything? Women and men across the nation are waiting with baited breath for these answers, but change is slow and we will get no immediate answers.
The Possible Impact of Weinstein & Co. on Sexual Harassment and Assault Allegations
In the short term, the number of allegations will increase, which likely will result in an increase in the number of sexual harassment lawsuits filed. This is due to a couple of factors. First, these sexual harassment stories seem to have broken on a largely industry-by-industry basis. Hollywood accusers were the first to come forward and we have seen several high-profile actors, theater producers, and screenwriters get sucked under the bandwagon of accusations. Then the media accusations came out, followed by small pockets of allegations of harassment in the legal field and Silicon Valley. The politics-related accusations are the latest wave of accusations, but there are certainly more industries that have chronic sexual harassment problems. Very few financial sector allegations have been made and the number of tech and legal field allegations seems quite small. It is likely that we will see more allegations from these areas.
Second, many instances of workplace harassment likely occurred in the immediate timeframe before the Weinstein revelations, and those victims are more likely to speak out because of the recent revelations. The Statute of Limitations of filing sexual harassment allegations with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is normally 300 days. EEOC’s webpage traffic statistics have shown a marked increase in webviews on its sexual harassment and assault webpages, which at least implies that more harassed employees are either considering coming forward or filing lawsuits.
Third and finally, the increase in sexual harassment allegations may change the way that the EEOC and the courts resolve sexual harassment claims. Historically, the EEOC has taken a relatively small number of workplace sexual harassment claims to court each year. This was likely due to the difficulty in winning these cases within a culture of victim blaming and shaming. Perhaps now, the EEOC will take more cases to court. Additionally, an increase in workplace sexual harassment cases may result in courts changing the standards to which they hold employers. Current Supreme Court jurisprudence has provided employers with a Faragher/Ellerth defense to harassment claims where the employee fails to report harassment in accordance with workplace sexual harassment policies. Perhaps it is time to revisit the efficacy of internal human resources resolution of harassment claims given the revelations about such procedures under Weinstein.
That said, the number of workplace sexual harassment claims made over the next year will likely see a short term decrease. This is because supervisors, and men in particular, are freaking out about the possibility of a sexual harassment lawsuit (and for good reason). Now that the Weinstein allegations have had time to sink in, it is likely that more men will be on their best behavior around their female colleagues at work. While instances of sexual harassment will undoubtedly still occur, those numbers will likely be reduced in the immediate future. Whether those numbers stay depressed is another question entirely, however.
Societal Implications of the Recent Sexual Harassment Allegations and the “Weinstein Effect”
The recent sexual harassment allegations have resulted in a new perspective and understanding about workplace sexual harassment. This phenomenon is being dubbed by some as the “Weinstein effect.” There are many unanswered questions about what the future holds for sexual harassment allegations at work. Will the recent allegations help or hurt women in the workplace long term? Will women be considered for more jobs? Or will men become fearful of hiring women? Will women be more likely to see equal pay for equal work? Will we see women in more high-powered positions? And will women help other women succeed? These are all important questions that will be answered over time. Obviously, women should not be punished as a result of these allegations, either as a class of employees as a whole or individually for coming forward and telling their own stories. If anyone is being sexually harassed in the workplace, that person has a right to come forward and access any available remedy available under the laws of the United States. The Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes is a full-service employment law firm handling employment discrimination and harassment claims in New York and New Jersey. If you have been harassed in the workplace, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately to evaluate any potential legal claims you may have.
These are all important questions that will be answered over time. Obviously, women should not be punished as a result of these allegations, either as a class of employees as a whole or individually for coming forward and telling their own stories. If anyone is being sexually harassed in the workplace, that person has a right to come forward and access any available remedy available under the laws of the United States.
The Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes is a full-service employment law firm handling employment discrimination and harassment claims in New York and New Jersey. If you have been harassed in the workplace, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately to evaluate any potential legal claims you may have.