Our Action Plan
Society needs an action plan when it comes to dealing with sexual misconduct at every level: private organizations, public institutions, governments, the courts, their leaders and the victims who have experienced the continuum of harm produced by these incidents.
We especially look to women-led organizations to take a prominent role in showcasing the need for change and the solutions that can bring it about.
Organizations where women play a top role in governance and management, or as entrepreneurs, often have a unique understanding of the barriers to advancement in the workplace and the challenges of overcoming them. They know what it’s like to be met with a constant succession of closed doors. They also know that a hand up or a second chance can make a big difference in turning a life around, especially one that has been decimated by the invidious effects of sexual misconduct.
To these ends, here is our five-point Action Plan.
1 Hire Us Back™
In too many cases involving sexual misconduct in the workplace, the offender gets to stay while the victim is forced to leave. The fact is that standing up and speaking out often comes at the cost of a woman’s job and livelihood. When enforcing our right to be free from inappropriate conduct results in a cloud of bad references and other reprisals from a vindictive employer, it can be career-ending.
It is the fear of these outcomes that prevents too many women from coming forward and reporting sexual misconduct in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that 75 percent of victims never report sexual misconduct out of fear of damaging their careers or losing their livelihoods altogether. The workplace is littered with the career casualties of too many women who have stood up and spoken out in an effort to make it safer for others. That is wrong on every level. Ultimately, society itself pays the price when so many talented, hard-working women are sidelined. It needs to change. The ZeroNow Campaign™ to Hire Us Back™ hopes to do that.
We call on our best employers, and especially women-led organizations, to help survivors of sexual misconduct re-enter the workplace and resume careers that have been stolen from us because we showed the moral courage and strength of character to stand up. We have too much experience and talent to be left on the sidelines and have society deprived of our contributions.
2 Adopt sunshine legislation requiring the reporting and disclosure of sexual misconduct statistics.
All organizations, starting with law-making bodies, government boards, commissions, agencies, departments and all publicly funded universities and hospitals, should be required to annually disclose the number of sexual misconduct incidents reported to them, the outcome of each complaint and any financial settlement paid.
We call this the sunshine law for sexual misconduct. We think it can prove to be a very effective disinfectant for the epidemic of sexual misconduct that plagues our workplaces.
3 End abuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
These now-infamous devices effectively gag women and prevent us from alerting others to potential unsafe workplace practices, while protecting offenders and the organizations which failed to take action against them. They also make it impossible to fight the efforts of previous employers to retaliate by preventing us from explaining the reason for possible adverse references. Giving up more rights should not be the price women have to pay for standing up against sexual misconduct. Nor should misbehaving employers be able to silently treat sexual misconduct settlements as just another cost of doing business.
4 Criminalize reprisals against women who report sexual misconduct.
We know that fear of retaliation frequently deters women from coming forward in the first place, and that those of us who do often experience blackballing in our industries and professions that prevents us from finding another job or resuming our chosen careers. The U.S. EEOC reports that in at least three out of four cases, some form of retaliation is claimed. At the very least, these widespread practices against the victims of workplace sexual harassment should attract much stiffer monetary penalties and reputational sanctions from the courts and human rights tribunals.
The current standard of requiring virtually incontrovertible proof of retaliation almost in the form of a written admission by the offender should be modified to acknowledge the real-world obstacles that confront victims who seek to overcome negative whisper campaigns on the part of previous employers. Central to the change in laws and practices that must occur is the fundamental principle that speaking out against sexual misconduct should not be at the cost of a woman’s economic livelihood, reputation and self-esteem.
5 Extend anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws.
Currently, EEOC protections in the United States do not cover women-led businesses that are acting in a supplier or contract capacity with larger organizations. We call this the Garrison Keillor loophole.
It was confirmed — again — in a recent jaw-dropping case where the male CEO of a health care consulting firm told a potential contractor in an email that it would be “inappropriate to do business with a woman-led organization.” This was after she was approached by the company and had several meetings were she shared propriety data in the hope of landing a contract with the company. In refusing to act, the EEOC noted “People who are not employed by the employer, such as independent contractors, are not covered by the anti-discrimination laws.”
This also means that women who are considered under U.S. Title VII Civil Rights laws to be a “protected” class insofar as employment discrimination based on sex is concerned are really an unprotected class as far as the U.S. government is concerned.
Did they forget that we are actually living in the 21st century? When women-formed and led businesses make up the largest proportion of new business creations, it is intolerable that they are not protected from sexual assault or sexual harassment on the part of the clients with whom they are doing business, or that they can be discriminated against and denied economic advancement just because of their gender.
We also believe that the minimum threshold number of employees that U.S. companies must have before federal anti-discrimination laws and EEOC remedies are triggered should be removed. The attack on a woman’s dignity when sexual misconduct occurs is not diminished because she is self-employed or because she is employed in a small business.
If you are a journalist following these stories, a victim of sexual misconduct in the workplace, or a business leader interested in giving its casualties a second chance at rebuilding their careers and lives, we’d like to hear from you.
— Survivors —
Share their Views
I lost my job and any shred of dignity I had left because I blew the whistle. Where do I go to get my life back?
Once they brought the lawyers and private investigator in, I knew the deck was stacked against me.
I guess it helps to be a famous actress or have a big deal boss that everybody knows. In my little world, CNN isn’t going to help make things right. I can’t afford a black dress. What happens when you work at Walmart or make minimum wage?
In my books, the women who knew what people like Harvey Weinstein and other stars were doing, but said nothing, are as bad as the men who’ve been caught with their robes open.
#MeToo is great but will it last? When I could have used support from the press and my sisters on the job, I was left on my own. Nobody cared and I felt like a pariah. When all the headlines fade will everybody go back to sleep?
I lost my job, my marriage, my reputation, my income and my home. My work colleagues didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore. I was a pariah to them. I lost everything and I thought many, many times about taking my own life, especially when I saw my harasser continue to thrive in the organization that was more than happy to assassinate my character and then throw me under the bus.
I am writing to you as an employee of the Government of Canada for more than 30 years when bullying, harassment, intimidation, and retaliation ended up costing me my career.
I was a dedicated, engaged, enthusiastic and highly rated employee before all of this, and it not only has cost me my career and my livelihood, it has cost me my health in so many ways. I am suffering from stress, depression and PTSD as a result of all of this!
When they finally investigated my complaint I felt like I was being sent off to a deserted island. I had no support or anyone helping me. I never knew what was going to happen next. The guy doing the investigation had a real chip on his shoulder. Everybody I worked with kept their distance. It was like I had some kind of contagious disease. Obviously, the word went out. I’m sure this is the way management likes it so others will be discouraged from bringing up complaints. It will take a lot before that attitude ever changes.
When I told my supervisor about what happened to me, he just kept hounding me not to do anything. He told me nobody likes a troublemaker. My kids were growing up at the time and I was a single mom. I couldn’t afford to rock the boat. I’ve lived with this dark secret for nearly 10 years. Would things be any better today? I doubt it because nobody is really looking at the little people doing their jobs. Nobody is going to come to your rescue if you go out on a limb and the powers that be decide to cut it off.
Why bother to change a perfect system? It works perfectly fine for the men. If they wanted it changed it would have happened a long time ago. This is all window dressing. Nobody expects women will really be better off.