Chipotle Mexican Grill is a popular fast food restaurant with many locations in New York City. On Dec. 3, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that the company agreed to pay $95,000 to a former employee who alleges that he was sexually harassed by his female boss.
The board of directors for Google's parent company, Alphabet, has begun a sexual harassment investigation into certain company executives, including the company's chief legal officer. Employers in New York and across the country have a legal obligation to provide employees with a safe environment within which to work, and sexual harassment may give rise to legal claims. According to a spokesperson for Alphabet, the board of directors formed a special committee early in 2019 to review shareholder claims of workplace misconduct.
Despite widespread media coverage of the damaging effects of racism and sexism at work, New Yorkers continue to face harassment and discrimination on the job. Dealing with workplace discrimination can be emotionally devastating as well as damaging to a person's career. This may be exacerbated if an employee suffers retaliation after attempting to address the issue. In other cases, a worker's justified fear of retaliation may be so great that they are hesitant to speak up about the mistreatment at all. By understanding their rights, workers are better able to protect themselves and challenge unjust treatment at work.
When employees in New York and throughout the country report sexual harassment in the workplace to their human resources department, they may be dissatisfied with the outcome. They might go weeks without hearing anything further, and nothing may happen to the perpetrator. They might feel they are facing retaliation. This is true even though awareness of sexual harassment at work is on the rise. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment claims went up more than 13% in 2018.
The MeToo movement drew attention to sexual harassment in a range of major New York industries, including entertainment, media and tech. Sparked by the revelations of high-flying Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's harassment of actresses, MeToo encouraged women to tell their stories of sexual harassment on the job and hold perpetrators publicly accountable. Many activists hoped to see long-term results that could make the workplace more inclusive and safer for all. However, some study results indicate that the aftermath of MeToo is not leading to less harassment but to new forms of discrimination against women.
Sexual harassment can be a problem for New York workers in an array of occupations. Some industries may have unique challenges in dealing with harassment, especially the hospitality sector, where many customers come through and women workers in particular may face aggressive, uncomfortable interactions. Bars and restaurants have developed a bad reputation for being places where questionable behavior was tolerated between staff or from high-ranking chefs and owners. The #MeToo movement highlighted a number of well-known restaurateurs for this type of behavior. However, the next step involves creating practices that aim to provide long-term solutions for harassment on the job.
Women in New York might be facing more sexism in the workplace overall even though they may be encountering less sexual harassment than they were just a few years earlier. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado interviewed more than 500 women around the country in September 2016 and again in September 2018. In that time, the percentage who said they had experienced unwanted sexual attention in the workplace dropped from 66% to 25%. However, in 2018, 93% of women said they experienced sexism compared to 76% in 2016.
Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and public exposure of prominent sexual harassers, many women in New York and around the country fear to report inappropriate behavior, although some have come forward about their experiences in the workplace. Even when they do, they are sometimes criticized for taking time before reporting the issues. Some believe that all employees need to do is report the problem in order to solve it. In reality, retaliation is a very serious concern.
While people in New York are now more aware of sexual harassment, it continues to pose a serious problem on the job for many women. The #MeToo movement shed light on harassment and sexual coercion in major industries, including entertainment, politics and technology. While it may have bolstered some women's willingness to report inappropriate treatment on the job, the movement has not stopped sexual harassment from taking place. Indeed, women are still facing firing, demotion or attempts to force them out of their jobs, especially after reporting harassment incidents.
Over the last couple of years, the problem of sexual harassment (in all areas of life) has come into sharper focus and greater public awareness. Even many women who have personally experienced sexual harassment or assault did not know the true scale of the problem because it was seldom discussed publicly. Thankfully, that is changing.