Often, sexual harassment at work occurs not because companies don’t have policies that make it unlawful, but because these policies are not always enforced and/or there’s a lack of training to educate employees. The most effective way to curb sexual harassment in the workplace is to empower employees and make them aware that sexual harassment is illegal under state and federal law. Some companies are taking on this task. Some are not. Clearly, having a “policy” in place is not enough. These high profile cases will hopefully reveal to employers the importance of eliminating sexual harassment from their workplaces.
During the past several months, you’ve likely heard a great deal about the sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein and the pervasive culture of sexual harassment at Uber. But there are many other major U.S. companies currently dealing with their own sexual misconduct issues. Here is just a sampling of a few of the more prominent ones.
4 Companies Dealing with Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims
Referred to as a “boys club” by two of its founders in a New York Times article, Vice Media, a billion-dollar global digital media and broadcasting company, has settled four cases of defamation or sexual harassment with former employees in recent months. But the problem runs much deeper: two dozen female employees have reported that they witnessed or experienced sexual harassment at work, including some who were propositioned for sex.
A few weeks after launching an investigation on company-wide sexual misconduct, Vice fired three employees in late November for violating its HR policies. Shortly after that, in early January, the company suspended two top executives, President Andrew Creighton and Chief Digital Officer Mike Germano, in the wake of the newspaper exposé.
To address its “boys club” culture, Vice announced that it is forming an advisory board that will educate management and employees on diversity and workplace-conduct issues. In addition, the company will require sexual harassment training for full-time and freelance employees, and ensure that it achieves pay parity in 2018 and a 50-50 ratio of female to male employees by 2020.
Ford Motor Company
Despite assurances that it would address sexual harassment in its Chicago plants after it was investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the 1990s, resulting in a $22 million settlement, Ford has continued to have issues with workplace sexual harassers. In fact, the EEOC reached another settlement ($10 million) with Ford this past August.
More recently, in December, more than 70 former and current employees relayed accounts of sexual harassment at the Chicago assembly and stamping factories to the New York Times. After the article was published, at least one employee reported that she was retaliated against because of the report.
In addition to the August settlement, approximately 30 plaintiffs brought forward a class action sexual harassment suit that’s currently in the federal court system. This suit claims that several local union representatives harassed female employees or obstructed their complaints. Although Ford’s president and CEO publicly apologized for the harassment and discriminatory conduct in an open letter, discrimination and harassment have long held sway at the company.
21st Century Fox
During the past few months, there have been numerous, well-documented sexual harassment claims made against a number of Hollywood icons. However, the culture of sexual misconduct extends well beyond those starring on the Silver Screen.
Recently, 21st Century Fox has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In mid-January, a former Vice President of Enterprise Rights Management for the studio filed a lawsuit claiming that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by her superiors and eventually terminated because of her gender.
Although she complained on several occasions to her supervisor about inappropriate comments made to her by the company’s executives, she was largely ignored and eventually assigned a new supervisor who refused to meet with her. In addition to sexual harassment and gender discrimination, she is suing 21st Century Fox for retaliation and violation of public policy.
This lawsuit follows in the wake of $145 million-worth of settlements the parent company paid to settle discrimination and harassment complaints, mostly related to employees of the Fox News Network. As part of these settlements, 21st Century Fox created a “Fox News Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council” responsible for advancing women and minorities at the company, while making certain that employees are able to work in a safe environment.
Bank of America
Although, according to the Washington Post, Bank of America was described as a “bro’s club” in a 2016 lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan, like Ford, the culture doesn’t seem to have changed much during the past couple of years. That year, the financial institution settled with a senior female fixed-income banker who filed a lawsuit claiming mistreatment of female employees and significant differences in pay for male and female employees.
Despite the fact that the banking industry and Wall Street have long been known for a culture of gender and wage discrimination, many of these institutions have avoided the recent flurry of sexual harassment allegations that have been so prominent in Hollywood; news organizations; Washington, D.C.; and Silicon Valley.
However, earlier this month a managing director at Bank of America was let go after a female analyst accused him of making sexual advances and engaging in relationships with female subordinates. In response, the company’s HR department interviewed at least 10 people who worked directly with him and subsequently decided to terminate him.
Unfortunately, some Bank of America executives reportedly told employees to let clients know that he left to pursue another career opportunity. The industry has long been known for allowing those executives who have been accused of sexual harassment at work to leave their jobs in good standing, choosing to handle these allegations on their own terms.
Are You Experiencing Sexual Harassment at Work?
Although more and more employees are now feeling empowered to come forward to report sexual harassment in the workplace, the above examples illustrate how widespread cultures of sexual harassment are in a variety of industries. But that shouldn’t give you pause in deciding to report it. After all, sexual harassment is illegal, and employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as many state laws.
If you feel as though you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work, it’s vital that you understand your rights and fight back against your harasser. To learn more about sexual harassment in the workplace, download our free Guide to Sex Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.