Most tales of workplace sexual misconduct will never become news
The flood of inappropriate workplace behavior stories in the news will hopefully shed a cold, hard light on an issue that's been under-addressed for too long, according to an expert at Rutgers University.
Dana Britton, director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, says what's changed is that in this current climate of revelation, "people who have been subjected to victimization for a really long time suddenly feel like they can come forward and something will happen."
Britton spoke to New Jersey 101.5 on the day that longtime "Today" host Matt Lauer was ousted by NBC over accusations of sexual harassment. In another announcement Wednesday, former "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor also was accused of inappropriate contact. And these stories follow dozens this year that have implicated Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama.
"The takeaway, I think, is that we are in a period in which behavior that previously had been at least overlooked is now being paid attention to, and ultimately, women have the opportunity, or victims have the opportunity, to come forward and be believed," Britton said. "It didn't start with Harvey Weinstein. It has been happening for decades and decades and decades, as long as women have been in the workforce."
She says this behavior underscores a lack of fairness some exhibit toward those who work for them.
"It is about the exercise of power. These are powerful people, powerful men with the power in the workplace to have the ability to hire or fire, or who have the ability with a recommendation or a referral to make someone's career. So there is a lot of danger in coming forward and talking about your experiences if you have been sexually harassed by someone in a position like that."
Britton adds, this sort of harassment takes place all the time in much lower workplace settings.
"It also happens, and more commonly in low-paid workplaces, and we are not hearing so much about that, for sure. But these are not the kind of people who are ever going to make the front page of The New York Times."
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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5