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The #MeToo movement hits the workplace

In recent months, the reports of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and harassment have swept the nation, highlighting just how much work is left to do in regards to putting a stop to the sexual harassment in the workplace that so many women must contend with. In the wake of the MeToo movement, new changes for the workplace are on the horizon - many of which are long overdue. However, not all of the changes to come are guaranteed to be positive, and there will certainly still be plenty of battles left to fight. Outlined in this article are just a few of the ways the revelations brought forward by the #MeToo movement may change rules and proceedings in the workplace for the better and the worse. 

Increased attention to sexual harassment in the workplace

The #MeToo movement has put sexual harassment in the workplace on center stage for all the world to see. No longer can it be swept under the rug and ignored; finally, those responsible are being held accountable. 

Sheryl Sandberg - the chief operating officer for Facebook and the author of "Lean In," - said in a Facebook Post that was reported on by CNN that, "This is a critical moment for anyone who faces unwanted sexual advances at work. Sexual harassment has been tolerated for far too long in the halls of government and companies large and small. For the first time in my professional life, it feels like people are finally prepared to hold perpetrators responsible."

Indeed, for women who have suffered from sexual harassment in the workplace, the #MeToo movement is a welcome sign of relief. The ability for men in positions of power to get away with sexual harassment of their employees has been greatly diminished due to the spotlight that this movement has shined on these actions, and you can expect many new rules and scrutiny regarding sexual harassment for companies big and small. 

Potential for workplace backlash

Many employers are feeling especially skittish in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The last thing they want is for their business to make the nightly news as another example of sexual harassment in the workplace. In some instances, though, this fear may be likely to lead to backlash against women who report incidents of sexual misconduct and attempts to silence them. 

In the same Facebook post where Sandberg lauded what the #MeToo movement has been able to accomplish, she also said, "doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect. It also means not isolating or ignoring them — and making access equal. Whether that means you take all your direct reports out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed...I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: 'This is why you shouldn’t hire women.' Actually, this is why you should. And you shouldn’t just hire women — you should mentor, advise, and promote them."

For women battling against sexual harassment, the fight has just begun. In addition to ensuring that those responsible are called out and reprimanded for their actions, women in the workplace must also be aware of the potential for backlash and stand ready to fight it if and when instances of backlash occur. 

What may happen next

Following the #MeToo movement, continued vigilance is key - not only to spot and stop sexual harassment but also to spot and stop instances where employers lash out or attempt to silence employees who report instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you believe that you are suffering from backlash due to reporting sexual harassment or are being discriminated against in anyway, we urge you to contact us today. The fight against sexual harassment may have just begun, but it is a war we stand ready and willing to fight to the end.

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