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Why Workplace Bullying Deserves the #MeToo Treatment

Despite such progress, incidences of sexual harassment and sexual assault persist and perpetrators continue to go unpunished. By Sophie Jarvis I November 4, 2021

Workplace bullying is harmful, targeted behavior that creates a toxic work environment. There are different forms of workplace bullying, but one of the most prevalent is sexual harassment. This type of harassment can occur in the form of an untoward remark, an unwelcome request for a sexual favor, or unwelcome and inappropriate touching.

There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. The former relates to an exchange of sexual favors for a professional related benefit, such as a promotion or pay rise, or as a prevention of a threat. A hostile work environment is any type of repeated intimidating behavior, such as groping, that causes someone to feel emotional distress in the workplace. Both types of sexual harassment are allowed to exist through the continued exploitation of power imbalances of those in powerful positions.

The #MeToo movement, which gained momentum in 2017, after the allegations made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, has increasingly defined what behavior is acceptable and what is not. As a result of the traction gained by the movement, 201 powerful men lost their jobs, with 53 of these roles being filled by women. It has also exposed the conditions that allow power imbalances to promote the conditions for incidences of sexual harassment to occur, by impacting a victim’s ability to resist, or speak up.

Yet, despite these successes, nearly 3 in 4 sexual harassment claims in the workplace are unreported, and 55% of victims experience retaliation after speaking up or making a claim. These sort of statistics demonstrate that sexual harassment accusations continue to fly under the radar, or are not taken seriously by institutions. The #MeToo movement, and particularly the allegations made by Weinstein victims, exposed that fear of retaliation was one of the reasons that many women stayed quiet about their abuse. Additionally, the extensive use of NDAs to protect Weinstein against allegations coming to light has proven that those in power can exploit the resources available to them to suit their own ends. For many of his victims, threats of ruined careers and unwanted exposure loomed heavily, leaving many feeling like they had no option but to stay quiet.

What is clear, is that there is still a vast amount of work to be done. It is evident that sexual harassment remains prevalent in the workplace. In order to combat this, companies across the board must ensure that policies are in place that allow victims to come forward without fear of retaliation or silencing. Complaints must be taken seriously, and senior staff members must do their due diligence to prevent any further such issues from arising. Furthermore, businesses must ensure that guidelines and training practices are implemented so that employees are fully aware of boundaries in the workplace, and what constitutes sexual harassment. For victims, documenting any incidences of unwanted behavior of a sexual nature is crucial for building a case against perpetrators. Track and Assess allows individuals to create their own private paper trail of any incidences of workplace bullying or sexual harassment, which can then be turned into a report to be handed over to HR teams and authorities.

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