Not Just A Hollywood Story
ADDRESSING SEXUAL HARRASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE LOCALLY
It’s surprising, or maybe not, how the media has largely let one of the most potentially impactful news stories of our time quickly dissipate in to oblivion. The guilty verdict of Harvey Weinstein was the moment all the likes for #metoo and #timesup, shared by the world, were waiting for. There was a blusterous cry for awareness to the plight of women all around the world and the inequality, harassment and abuse that they faced in the workplace. So what’s happened? Weinstein’s been found guilty and is going to jail yet there seems to be relatively little attention paid to this. Where’s the support for all the thumbs ups, emoji tears and hearts? One doesn't need to be to concerned, it’s just a Hollywood story right? Well, it’s not. Sexual harassment in the workplace is likely a larger issue than any of us realize. It happens everyday. In your city, in your neighbourhood, in the office space next door, in the coffee shop around the corner to you, in the warehouse by the river and maybe by some you know. Your friend, your partner, your cousin, a friend of a friend. It’s everywhere. It’s NOT just a Hollywood story.
The headlines read “Harvey Weinstein found guilty of RAPE”. True, but kind of not true. The word rape conjures up images of violence, wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of the victim. An attention grabbing headline without a doubt. In Canada, this is referred to as Aggravated sexual assault (level 3). Headlines need to be impactful, but also accurate. Harvey Weinstein wasn’t found guilty on those charges. He was found guilty on, what is often and wrongfully described as, a lesser charge, 3rd Degree Rape. Our penal system refers to this as Sexual assault (level 1). In this “lesser” charge strength and awareness for workplace harassment should be championed. Journalism may find by embracing this and screaming "YES this is a Victory", a step forward may be taken.
There’s a pretty big difference between consent and un-welcomed resignation. Un-welcomed resignation in the workplace is brought forth by an imbalance in power, persistence and insistence. What one may view as consensual may indeed be an un-welcomed resignation. It is to this effect that Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of 3rd degree rape (Sexual assault Level 1). The message we should be sharing to the young adults entering the workforce; understand the boundaries, what they are and what they mean. Employees should know their rights, feel empowered, secure and unashamed to speak out when something is amiss. If it feels wrong, it’s probably wrong. Owners, managers and supervisors bear a strong responsibility and duty of care to avoid indulging in sexually questionable conduct in the workplace, due to their position of authority over other employees.
Courts need to step up and make processes quicker, effective and decisive. Non disclosure agreements on settlements for these kinds of cases need to go away. Employers should not be allowed to hide behind their businesses for the actions of themselves or for those as their direct reports.
Shortly after Weinstein’s verdict was read the Me Too Organization released this statement “Whether you are an office worker, a nanny, an assistant, a cook, a factory worker— we all have to deal with the spectre of sexual violence derailing our lives. And, though today a man has been found guilty, we have to wonder whether anyone will care about the rest of us tomorrow.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. A pretty truthful statement. A statement that is coming too fruition.
The workplace should be a safe and secure environment. Locally and nationally the impact this verdict can have on awareness is tremendous. An opportunity is present to showcase a standard of conduct in the workplace for our children. No one should ever have to walk in and feel an obligation to be touched, verbally persuaded, threatened or harassed. A parallel can be drawn to the impact M.A.D.D campaigns have had on the Millennial generation. A Boomer is far more likely to drink and drive than a Millennial. That came through education and awareness. Don’t let this opportunity pass us by. Media, help our society think locally and act appropriately. It’s NOT just a Hollywood story.