While allegations about the misconduct of Harvey Weinstein rocked the entertainment industry in California, similar accusations in media and broadcasting have continued throughout the country. It is not the first time the broadcasting industry has come under scrutiny for enabling sexual harassment. Ten years ago, investigations into an executive running Tribune Broadcasting eventually resulted in his resignation.
In that case, employees and former employees reported sexual innuendo and other behaviors that were encouraged by executives. The employee handbook was rewritten to say that such an atmosphere was necessary for creativity. In the current atmosphere and moving forward, broadcasters should review their employee handbooks, guidelines for reporting sexual harassment and training and see where they need to improve.
One challenge for companies will be to determine what constitutes sexual harassment and to recognize that workplace romances will still happen. However, in some cases, an employee might appear to be consenting while he or she is actually trying to deescalate an interaction with a person who has more power. Companies need to keep the lines of communication open and make it clear to employees that they can make a report if they feel they are facing sexual harassment. It may be that unwelcome but accepted behavior from the past will no longer be considered acceptable.
Some people may still feel hesitant about reporting sexual harassment. They might worry that their employer will retaliate against them or that it will hurt their career in a less concrete way. While trying to deal with harassment through processes at work is usually the best first step, employees may still want to consult an attorney to make sure they understand their rights. The attorney may also be able to offer advice about how to document any incidents and how to proceed.