Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Has Anything Changed Since #MeToo?

Dec 22, 2020 | Business Insurance

The world health organization estimates that sexual violence affects one-third of women worldwide. Assault, abuse, and violence is a widespread problem in the united states. In homes, in the streets, and in the workplace. Across race, sexual orientation, and many factors, women are dealt with the short end of the stick.

Sexual harassment has been conceptualized as a women’s issue, and while men can also be the victims, they happen at a lower frequency. However, they are both wrong. and light has been shed on them more frequently than ever before.

In 2016, almost 7,000 sexual harassment charges were filed, 82 percent by women. A year later, the metoo movement shook the world. The voices that stood out and the actions that were taken rippled through various spaces, especially the American workspace.

Thanks to the rise of social media and the internet we are able to track information from before the famous movement till now.

What actions have been taken and has anything changed since this started?

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment/abuse/violence is defined in the U.S as harassment because of a person’s sex and is unlawful. It is defined by its impact, not its intent, and must be unwelcomed to be considered harassment.

Behavior considered sexual harassment can be divided into three different sections:

Sexual Coercion

Sexual coercion is a form of harassment where the victim is pressured, threatened, tricked, or forced to perform sexual acts in a nonphysical way. It makes the victim believe they owe the harasser sex or sexual favors, and a harasser is usually a person with power over the victim.

Gender Harassment

Gender Harassment is another form of harassment that doesn’t include explicit sexual behavior but includes slurs and other forms of negative and hostile stereotyping directed at the victim’s gender in various settings. This mode of harassment is made to make the victim feel constantly uncomfortable while being tiny enough to allow the abuser to deny accusations.

Sexual Attention

Unwanted sexual attention is a form of sexual attention where the victim receives sexual advances, whether physically or through inappropriate comments and stares that make the victim feel uncomfortable.

Sexual harassment is not just women-based violence, though women make up most of the victims. A Harasser can be the same age, gender, orientation, and more.

Sexual Abuse in the Workplace

Women in the workplace are demanding more agency over their work lives, and more awareness in their chosen workspace. Along with finding out the salary and benefits of the job, women are also interested in company culture and vetting workplace environments.

Though many people might experience workplace harassment, a huge number of people don’t report it. Women face the fear that they will lose their jobs, be blacklisted in their field, that no one will believe them, scrutinize at their story and even being accused of lying and blamed for their own experience.

The increase in public scrutiny of sexual assault in the workplace especially, was due to the metoo movement.

What is the #MeToo movement?

The metoo movement is a social movement against sexual abuse and harassment. It’s a term that was coined by Tarana Burke on Myspace in early 2006 to promote empowerment and through empathy amongst women of color who’d been sexually abused.

It took prominence in late 2017, when actress, Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo in response to predatory accusations against Harvey Weinstein and as many women shed light on their experience with high profile men in the entertainment industry and more.

The hashtag was used over 200,000 times by the end of the day and was used more than four million times on Facebook.

Effects on Workplaces Post “metoo”

According to the Harris poll by careerarc, 76 percent of employed Americans agree that the social movement made a positive impact on how sexual harassment is addressed in the workplace.

74 percent of employed Americans say the movement has helped to decrease the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace. And 68 percent of employed Americans also say that the movement has made the workers more vocal and empowered them to report sexual harassment at work.

While the numbers show that the impact of this movement has been fairly positive there’s still work that needs to be done o behalf of employees in the workspace. 41 percent of employed Americans say their HR department takes sexual harassment in the workplace very seriously.

The Role of Employers

Company culture plays a role in how sexual misconduct is recognized and dealt with. When harassers believe they can get away with their actions and victims know that nothing will come from the reporting,

This is how a harmful space is created and kept functioning.

Here are some effective ways employers can make their companies safe spaces for women and other victims of sexual harassment.

Harassment Policy Review

Sexual harassment policies must be implemented and kept up to date and reviewed every couple of years. What should be condoned is always changing and is the job of the company to keep up with it in order to make its employees feel the most confident and comfortable?


Everyone in the company must go through sexual harassment training.

A space where the policy is discussed and employees are made known that their voice matters. Along with the policy, this should take place every year and be mandatory for all.


There should be varying ways an employee can report or complain about sexual violence to the company. A group of people or various heads for different departments gives victims choices to be able to talk to who they’re most comfortable with.

Managing Claims

When a victim comes forward to process a claim, there should be a fair, detailed investigation. Taking steps such as:

Protecting the accuser

Separating the accuser and accused is important.

Making sure the accuser is safe and won’t be the victim of more retaliation from others in the workspace helps with managing claims of harassment. 46 percent are afraid of retaliation when reporting incidents to their company’s HR department.

Seeking other victims

Abusers are rarely ever done and done. When a victim has been brave enough to call out the abuser, looking at their interactions with other employees will help with the investigation.

Willingness to fire the accused

It is important that companies are not in any way protecting the accused. Doing so sends the merge that harassment is condoned and as long as you do your work well you’re saveable.

Break the Silence

All of these start with a conversation. This is something the metoo movement has started and employers are responsible to keep thriving. Openly addressing concerns, listening, creating safe spaces is important.

Both men and women in the workspace need to be able to talk about what is and is not welcome.

Change in the Workspace

Along with regular company protocols, since the metoo movements employers have also adopted more informal ways to improve company culture.

Introducing anonymous helplines as an avenue for victims that don’t want to be outed. Making the monitoring of sexual misconduct a must as part of the department leaders’ responsibilities. Spotting potential risks and putting them as an end to it before it can manifest into something bigger. The metoo movement has pushed for and created a sense of a growing community that the American workspace was in need of for a long time.

A toxic workplace is bad for all parties; employers, employees, and businesses. The metoo movement has created a standard, though not yet perfect to help in aiding victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Before this, companies had been lax with prioritizing change and instilling a sense of comfort in their employees.

Because of this, the equality and human rights commission published new technical guidelines that explain an employer’s responsibilities in harassment and the environment that breeds it.


The metoo movement has shown that victims and survivors of sexual assault are not alone and shouldn’t be made to feel so. Building support systems for those who’ve been victim to that trauma is important not only in the workspace but outside of it as well.

Women now feel empowered and around them men are taking various actions to learn about and call out rotten acts.

Visit our training and courses page or contact us to learn more about harassment in the workplace and the tools we offer to help you elevate your workspace to a safe environment for everyone.

If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you.