Workers make up the backbone of the American economy, yet continue to face dangerous work environments. The fight for safer workplaces includes traditional protections like access to safety equipment and training, but should also include protections from the workplace effects of sexual and domestic violence.
Shock, dismay, anger – my social media was buzzing about the personal accounts of two former Uber employees detailing their stories of the gender discrimination and sexual harassment they faced at the prestigious tech company.
But over time, court rulings prompted businesses to affirmatively respond to sexual harassment in the workplace. Many companies established anti-harassment policies with complaint procedures, and some trained employees, supervisors and management on what constituted inappropriate behavior. I was an employment attorney, specializing in harassment, discrimination and workplace safety. Even with my expertise, and with an anti-harassment policy in place, I was subjected to sexual harassment by a client and then encouraged to participate in the “harmless flirting” in order to keep the client happy.
What I experienced was not the exception – it was the norm.
After signing in at the front office, Cedric Anderson, 53, was supposed to drop something off Monday morning for his wife, Karen Elaine Smith, 53, a teacher at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, Calif. Instead, he walked into Smith’s special needs classroom, opened fire and killed her, a student and then himself.
To those of us who work to end violence against women every day, this is a familiar story.
The shooting death of a teacher in San Bernardino, California, by her estranged husband was hardly an outlier – an estimated 50 women a month are shot to death in the US by former or current partners
Most news outlets are calling it a school shooting. A few have used the phrase “murder-suicide.” But it’s time to call yesterday’s deadly shooting at a San Bernardino elementary school what it really was: domestic violence.
A male colleague grabbing her leg. Another one suggestively rubbing her back. Others at work dinners discussing who they’d want to sleep with.
Jane Park talked about experiencing all of this behavior in her career in business consulting and strategy. Never has she reported any of it to human resources or management.
- Restaurant worker tried to sue for sexual assault, saying a supervisor attacked her after hours.
- Court says state law on sexual harassment, and its cap on damage awards, doesn’t apply to assault cases.
My voice quavered as I read those words aloud and asked more than 70 union leaders and workers’ rights advocates who attended Reimagining Workplace Safety to assume the role of a vulnerable woman worker. I knew that I was about to read unsettling descriptions of violence and exploitation arising from and affecting the workplace. And the expressions on the participants’ faces showed that they were already starting to empathize with the lack of options available to women who have no choice but to work for low wages and are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and stalking both at the workplace and at home.