Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment — Winds of Needed Change
In recent months, allegations against powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein have sparked a much-needed cultural awakening concerning sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. For too long, powerful men have used their positions of authority to prey on women with the understanding that the old-boys club would accept those disgraceful actions and protect them from being held accountable. Thanks to the courage of women including Leeann Tweeden, Beverly Nelson, Asia Argento and so many others, that no longer is the case.
Leann Tweeden, a broadcaster and a model, said Sen. Al Franken kissed and groped her in 2006, before the Minnesota Democrat was elected to office – the office he since has stepped down from amid the scandal.
“You knew exactly what you were doing,” she wrote in a blog titled “Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It.”
The blog was posted Nov. 16, 2017.
“You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed,” Tweeden continued. “While debating whether or not to go public, I even thought to myself, so much worse has happened to so many others, maybe my story isn’t worth telling? …I’m telling my story because there may be others.”
Beverly Nelson has accused Alabama politician Roy Moore of sexual assault, when she was 16 at the time. On Dec. 12, 2017, Moore lost his Senate-seat bid. Actress Asia Argento accused Weinstein of sexual assault. Argento’s story has been followed by a flood of others, with over 80 women coming forward with creepy details about the movie producer’s conduct.
Time magazine is naming as its 2017 Person of the Year a group of women named The Silence Breakers. They include such notable people as Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift. Time’s Person of the Year is bestowed upon those who have affected the news and sparked conversations and the Silence Breakers definitely qualify.
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, including with unfortunate frequency, in the workplace. Women are forced to confront inappropriate comments, unwanted touching and other forms of lewd behavior, most often from men in supervisory positions. The disparity in power is used by the male perpetrator to pressure the woman to remain silent and accept that enduring this type of disgraceful conduct simply is part of her job. Luckily, besides the cultural shift that has occurred, laws in place allow women who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct to seek redress through the legal system. Those victims can pursue claims against the at-fault party(ies) through certain civil-rights statutes passed by Congress and the Florida Legislature, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. The law establishes workplace sexual harassment as a form of discrimination and prohibits employers from retaliating against their accusers.
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment,” according to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Web page titled “Facts About Sexual Harassment.”
The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, prohibits “quid pro quo.”
“If a supervisor demands sexual favors of you in order for you to keep your job or get a promotion, this would be considered “quid pro quo” sexual harassment,” reads a publication by The Wage Project. “In such a situation, if the supervisor harassing you terminated you, denied your promotion, or took any other action against you, this is known as a tangible employment action, which makes your employer automatically liable.”
Prior to filing an employment discrimination lawsuit, the victim must exhaust available administrative remedies by, among other things, filing a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency. However, victims of workplace sexual harassment may also have valid claims for state law intentional torts, such as civil assault, battery and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress. There is no requirement for the victim to exhaust administrative remedies regarding intentional torts, which allow the victim to seek compensatory and punitive damages against the at-fault party(ies). Victims must be mindful that any delay in pursuing legal remedies might make it more difficult to prove violations of the law, and sufficiently long delays might be a complete bar to bringing a legal claim.
Sexual harassment of any form is unacceptable, and no woman should be forced to endure inappropriate comments, unwanted touching or advances as part of her job description.