How To Slay The Dragon…I Mean, Eradicate Sexual Harassment

By: Amy Epstein Gluck

As you can read most recently here and here, Rich Cohen and I advise and encourage employers to invest in interactive sexual harassment training tailored to the workplace. We think it is a crucial tool in slaying the vile beast that is sexual harassment in the workplace. However, our friends at Quartz note that “[W]hile sexual misconduct trainings are important, countless studies prove them ineffective.” The EEOC, the federal agency that enforces the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, has agreed with this sentiment, which Rich wrote about extensively here.

What? Training is ineffective? Then what works? What shall slay the fierce dragon that is sexual harassment?

Well, Quartz reporter Leah Fessler noted this week that what will really rid our fair land of this pestilence is the promotion of women to leadership roles, bystander intervention, and frequent, outspoken messaging from both male and female managers about their intolerance of harassment, which we’ve written about ad infinitum here (on the set of Wonder Woman 2).

I agree! I like this! I’ve said this, in talking and writing about the basics of sexual harassment:

Encourage reporting of any unlawful harassment by men and women—a “say something if you see something” mentality; convey, via your policies and practices, that your company prohibits retaliation. Clarify for your employees that if an employee reports sexual harassment or discrimination, she will not suffer retaliation. This encourages reporting, which is beneficial for your company’s workplace morale, attrition levels, and reputation[.]”

Employers, take note: taking these actions and similar ones will help.

Fessler aptly quoted legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon from this interview with the New York Times, “…I’ve seen leaders of companies go in front of their employees and say: ‘Listen, we’re here to work, not to cater to your social and sexual needs. If I hear you’re doing that, you’re out of here.’ It’s pretty strong, but harassment doesn’t happen in those places.”

Makes sense. I’m with her so far.

The “Non-Negotiable Demand” Of #MeToo + #TimesUp

Then, Kessler notes that the first half of what MacKinnon says communicates the essential, non-negotiable demand at the heart of #MeToo (and #TimesUp, which I expounded upon here):

“Work is for work, not sex; women are professionals, not objects; and if your desire to sexualize your co-workers overwhelms your professional focus, then you, my friend, are the problem. And thankfully, your time is up.”

I. Love. It.

This quote resonates so distinctly because (a) this concept really shouldn’t be so difficult; and (b) you may remember that Rich and I chatted about it in our little dialogue about How Not To Be a Sexual Harasser, Part III, where we said “Remember — the primary reason that women are at your workplace as coworkers is so they can make a living and build a career….Men need to be more cognizant of how their behavior affects others and not indulge in unwelcome conduct. No woman I know would welcome her butt grabbed in her place of business. Period.”

As we wrote about in that same finale article and I wrote about here, we keep hearing from a lot of folks, “I don’t know how to talk to women I work with now.”

I’ll give you the answer without asking for a retainer because the answer is simple, and I want you to know: Act like a person and a decent, professional human being. Or get yourself some help and education if you’re unsure as to what that means.

Part of the Solution

About half of women and men say their companies have responded to the #MeToo movement by taking action against harassers, updating and clarifying their policies, or offering employee guidance or training.

Are you going to be one of them and be part of the solution?

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.