A year into #MeToo, hotel workers are getting panic buttons, runway models are getting private dressing rooms, and proposed laws are supporting sexual harassment victims.
Real change has come to many workplaces thanks to #MeToo.
It’s been one year since the New York Times published the explosive allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein, followed by Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker piece that brought 13 more reported Weinstein victims forward. And the results have transcended Tarana Burke’s #MeToo hashtag to exact real change across every industry, from vulnerable workers in fashion, food and hospitality demanding stronger protections and more support in filing sexual harassment and assault claims, to state legislatures proposing and passing laws to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Most tellingly, 810 high-profile figures and counting have been publicly accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, workplace misconduct and other related behavior, according to crisis consultancy Temin & Co.’s #MeToo Index. These notable execs and employees include Bill Cosby, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, ex-CBS honcho Les Moonves and former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. Most (97%) of the accused are male (with Asia Argento being a notable exception), including 234 people in entertainment; 192 in politics; 159 in business; 114 in media and 63 in colleges and universities.
“Every sector has been affected,” Temin CEO Davia Temin said in a statement, “and leaders — CEOs and board directors – are looking for insight on why, why now, and how we can address the reputational risk of toxic workplace cultures.”
Emily Martin, the vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, agreed that the victims of sexual abuse who have come forward have led to “real moments of individual accountability,” as well as “a new appetite by policymakers for solutions” to sexual harassment and assault.
“We’ve worked with so many more state legislators in 2018 on the issue of harassment in the workplace than we had in years and years before that,” she told Moneyish.
Here are some of the most notable laws and policy changes that have been passed in the last year to prevent sexual misconduct and punish those who commit such acts.
At the government level, now all lawmakers and staff in Congress (from your Senator to the interns) must take anti-harassment training every year, and there is proposed legislation calling for any offenders to be named (so no hiding behind non-disclosure agreements) and to pay for any settlements against them out-of-pocket; for now, those claims are still paid by taxpayers. And six states (Arizona, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington) have passed laws that limit the use of nondisclosure agreements in harassment cases, such as Arizona’s new rule that NDAs cannot stop victims from participating in criminal proceedings that relate to their abuse. NDAs often bar employees from speaking out about harassment and assault, and can allow perpetrators to commit these acts again.
But change is slow. For example, the federal statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment or assault suit can be as short as 180 days. And while Michigan successfully extended its cut-off from a victim’s 19th birthday to the 28th, and provided a 90-day window for all of former USA Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar’s victims to sue retroactively, the state House didn’t extend those protections to all sexual abuse victims. And the EMPOWER Act was introduced in the Senate and House over the summer, which restricted NDAs and created a confidential tip line run by the EEOC, but USA Today notes it has languished for months.
In business, many mergers and acquisitions are now including “Weinstein Clauses,” Bloomberg reports, which discloses any allegations of sexual harassment — and in some cases, the buyers have the right to get their money back if revelations of earlier sexual misconduct hurt business after the deal has gone through. Brookfield Asset Management’s July agreement to acquire Forest City Realty Trust Inc., for example, stated that there have been no sexual harassment allegations against any employees at the senior vice president level in the last five years.
Hotel workers in Chicago are getting panic buttons after the Hands Off Pants On ordinance passed in July, which mandates that hotels give employees working in guestrooms or restrooms portable emergency-contact devices, and calls for employers to develop and comply with a written sexual harassment policy. This may also be adopted by California. Seattle’s hotel employees are also getting panic buttons, as 53% of housekeepers in a recent Seattle survey revealed they experienced sexual harassment or an assault at work. And last month hotel chains including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Wyndham and InterContinental Hotels Group announced they are also giving workers panic buttons in a “5-Star Promise” commitment to sexual-assault prevention and reporting.
In fashion, Conde Nast announced it is no longer using models under age 18. And the media giant whose publications include Vogue, Glamour and Vanity Fair, will no longer allow alcohol on its sets, and any shoot involving nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie, swimwear, simulated drug or alcohol use, or sexually suggestive poses, must be approved in advance by the subject. Plus, the Model Alliance rights group called for a contract earlier this year protecting against sexual harassment that includes enlisting an independent third party to file complaints to, so that models don’t have to report allegations to the people paying them. And French fashion luxury brand LVMH (the parent company to Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs) and Kering (which runs Gucci and Saint Laurent) announced a Model Charter, earlier this year, which includes private places for models to change on shoots and at runway shows like New York Fashion Week.
Still, about 60% of women in a recent Time magazine poll said that the environment for women in their workplace had not changed since #MeToo, and 51% said they are no more likely to report sexual harassment now than before. An American Psychological Association survey also found that just under one-third (32%) of workers said their employers had taken new actions to address and prevent workplace sexual harassment after #MeToo (as of last March).
And many service industry workers compelled to put up with bad behavior by customers for good tips, or who rely on their boss’s goodwill to be scheduled good shifts, are still vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse. There have been baby steps, such as the Washington, D.C. Initiative 77 calling for a flat $15 wage for all workers, so servers aren’t slaves to tips. And Oregon’s new fair scheduling act that went into effect this past summer bans managers from rescheduling workers at the last minute — like being taken off the schedule if they reject a boss’s sexual advances. Plus, McDonald’s employees walked out in what organizers called the first nationwide strike to protest workplace sexual harassment on Sept. 18. (McDonald’s said in a statement that it is working to “evolve our policies, procedures and training.”)
“We are at the tip of the iceberg as more and more organizations continue or begin investigations into their cultures in general and #MeToo incidents in specific,” added Temin. “This is a movement toward fairness and safety that will not be stopped. It is inexorable.”
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