The #MeToo Movement And Workers’ Rights
December 20, 2019
By Ainsley Brown
Winner of the Working Now and Then Undergraduate Scholarship
The social movement #MeToo has taken over the internet and media by storm. In October 2017, the #MeToo invited women and men to share detailed and horrifying stories of sexual harassment and assault that they experienced in various places and settings, including in their workplaces. Many of the stories relayed on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under the hashtag #MeToo were stories from women depicting their experiences with sexual harassment and assault from many of their male colleagues in the workplace.
The #MeToo movement’s impact will be everlasting, especially when it comes to the treatment of women and men in the workplace. These stories brought up many questions surrounding the treatment of women in the workplace by their mostly male counterparts and co-workers, and it has since called into question the actions of many males in the workplace.
Some of the many high power men who have been called out and accused of sexual harassment in the workplace include producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, NBC personality Matt Lauer, comedian Louis C.K., president, chairman and chief executive of CBS Corporation Leslie Moonves, and unfortunately many more, and those are just some of the higher profile people who have been accused.
And it is not only women who have been the victims of workplace harassment. Many men have been subjected to it as well. Recently, Cristina Garcia, a California state assemblywoman was removed from committee posts amid sexual harassment accusations from a former legislative staff member. Another woman, Andrea Ramsey, a candidate for a U.S. House seat in Kansas, was forced to end her campaign after she was accused of sexually harassing, and then firing, a former subordinate. Additionally, Congresswoman Katie Hill from California was recently forced to resign over allegations of a sexual relationship with a staffer and other workplace harassment allegations.
Sexual abuse and harassment represent one of the biggest issues facing current workers and future workers. Even with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the message that sexual harassment in the workplace should no longer be accepted, sexual harassment and abuse remains a major problem across the country.
Workplace sexual harassment reveals the problems in our society. For decades, it has been socially acceptable for male bosses to harass their female subordinates. Women have long been told not to say something, leaving them too afraid to speak up and bring their accusations and stories to the police or to their company’s HR departments for fear that they may lose their careers and their futures.
However, the #MeToo movement has made reporting sexual assault less of a taboo. In fact, it has made sexual harassment in the workplace less acceptable and has encouraged more and more women and men to step forward with their stories of workplace harrassment. As a result, acceptance in society for this sort of behavior in the workplace has changed dramatically. Unfortunately, many people remain stuck with old fashioned views of society and how women should be treated by the men who are “in charge” of them.
Although it may seem impossible to fully resolve the challenge of sexual harassment in the workplace, the problem as a whole stems from the fact that many people have been raised to think that this type of behavior is something that is acceptable. Sexual harassment has been deemed a way for people in high power positions to assert their dominance and power over their subordinates.
Because of the nature of the problem and the way it is perceived by society, the best way to tackle this issue is by raising our sons and daughters to not accept or be a part of treatment like this in the workplace or in general. We can change the culture by teaching children to speak out if they are ever victims of sexual harassment or if they witness such treatment. All in all, one of the biggest issues facing workers now, and in the future, no matter how much the current movement has helped to lessen it, still remains sexual harassment of women and men by their male or female superiors.
Reflections from Charles Joseph
Ainsley Brown makes an important point about workplace sexual harassment––while we generally see women as the victims of sexual harassment and men as the perpetrators, anyone can experience sexual harassment in the workplace and anyone can sexually harass their coworkers. As Brown argues, the #MeToo movement increased public awareness of the harm caused by sexual harassment. The law provides workplace sexual harassment and hostile work environment protections, but unfortunately, the problem persists. If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, check out our advice on proving workplace sexual harassment or contact an employment lawyer for a consultation.
Ainsley Brown attends George Walton Comprehensive High School in Marietta, Georgia. She is the editor-in-chief of the Walton yearbook and balances school with a part-time job and numerous volunteering responsibilities. Brown plans to pursue a career as a lawyer after college.
Charles Joseph has over two decades of experience in employment law. He is the founder of Working Now and Then and the founding partner of Joseph and Kirschenbaum, a firm that has recovered over $120 million for clients.