The challenges of #MeToo
More people are finding the courage to sue for sexual harassment since the #MeToo campaign. The number of workplace sexual harassment claims filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is up 12%. The EEOC is a government agency in charge of enforcing civil rights laws in the workplace in the US. The agency has limited employees and can only take specific cases (high visibility cases).
There are approximately 70% of people facing harassment, however, they are not taking any legal action. The reason being, filing a lawsuit against a company is expensive for the plaintiff/employee due to limited financial resources. Companies have insurance to cover their legal costs and thus the legal action may be extended. However, the plaintiff is in a vulnerable situation due to limited knowledge and financial resources. The companies also try to make numerous attempts to settle the cases outside of court date. Mostly, companies will drag the process out to wear the plaintiff down, deplete their resources and cause more uncertainty.
Taking a legal action against a company also attracts unnecessary attention. If someone’s case is on the internet, there is a possibility that their future employer would have read it. In that case, there is a real stigma about “being a troublemaker”. Companies minimize their risk of hiring people who have taken legal actions in the past. The plaintiffs usually find themselves in an unfair scenario because pursuing a legal action takes, courage, commitment, and sufficient financial resources.
While people are finding the courage to stand up because of the #MeToo campaign, it is still hard to pursue legal action against a company. There are numerous factors that an individual needs to consider including, time, cost, their reputation, and their level of commitment. It is reasonable to say that there should be additional campaigns to support the plaintiff’s throughout the litigation process.
Author: MK Marsden
MK Marsden is a management consultant, serial entrepreneur and board member. She consults to companies and helps them operationalize their business strategies and accelerate their growth.