San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) May 3, 2018 - The #MeToo movement kicked off when dozens of Hollywood women came forward with sexual assault allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in the fall of last year.
The movement has led to many women publicly sharing their experiences of being sexually harassed in the workplace by their coworkers or superiors. It has also had other tangible impacts since then. In California, a bill was passed to grant whistleblower protections to legislative staff members who report sexual harassment. In January 2018, a bill was introduced in the California legislature to extend the time limit to file a sexual harassment lawsuit to three years, up from the current one-year limitation. In addition, sexual assault crisis hotlines in the country have reported a dramatic uptick in calls as a growing number of victims reach out for help.
“#MeToo and other recent movements have served to highlight the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace often goes unreported,” said attorney Jason Erlich of San Francisco-based employment law firm McCormack & Erlich. “Many victims do not come forward due to the fear of retaliation such as losing their job or being treated differently by their employer. However, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, and the law offers protections to employees who have been harassed.”
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States, saw a 32 percent rise in calls in December 2017 compared to the same month the previous year. RAINN received a total of 209,480 calls last year, the highest number since the 24-hour hotline was established in 1994. The hotline’s staff are trained to help callers by talking through the trauma of assault and connecting them with local resources.
Following #MeToo, Hollywood women spearheaded the launch of Time’s Up. The movement has raised $20 million for a legal defense fund established to help women who face sexual misconduct in the service industry and blue-collar workplaces.
The nonprofit Stop Street Harassment conducted an online survey in January of 1,000 women and 1,000 men nationwide. The study’s authors said their findings suggest sexual harassment is more pervasive than people realize.
Results showed 38 percent of women polled said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. However, just one in 10 women reported the harassment to a figure of authority. The same number said they tried to quit their jobs or change job assignments to avoid harassment. The study’s lead author, Holly Kearl, said she was surprised that the majority of women chose to alter their own routines and lives to reduce the risk of harassment instead of confronting their harassers.
“In certain situations, it may not always be possible to complain to an employer about sexual harassment. In such cases, individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace can speak to an attorney to learn about the legal options they can pursue,” said Erlich.
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