Workplace sexual violence is a rampant problem for women and other people employed across industries and sectors. Women of color and immigrants, especially low-paid workers and women in male-dominated industries, are among those who are often preyed upon by bosses, coworkers, customers and other people who wield power over them. Many workers find themselves in positions where they have to endure sexual harassment or abuse to be able to make a living. Workplace policies and practices often favor those who have positional and social power, not those who are expected to put their heads down and do the work no matter what.
Some women workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, such as domestic workers, restaurant and other tipped workers, janitorial and agricultural work that is often done by women of color, immigrant, and low-paid workers. This harassment is often exacerbated by isolation, poverty, immigration status, the lack of familiarity with the law and legal processes, exclusion from labor law, limited networks for support, contracted work, language barriers, and fear of retaliation, including deportation. And, because domestic workers and agricultural workers cannot legally unionize or collectively bargain, they are unable to obtain access to protections against sexual harassment that a union can sometimes provide, if the union is committed to doing so.
Remedying this problem—in all industries—has proven to be challenging for a range of reasons, including the fact that survivors are often left out of decision-making around what would make them feel safe and secure at work, and are not invited to share their perspectives, priorities or solutions.
We must all be able to work with dignity and free from the threat of sexual violence, including sexual harassment. Survivors must lead and be at the center of the movement for change, workers must be able to build power collectively and advocate for what is best for them and their loved ones, and the solutions to workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment, must be focused on preventing the harm before it ever happens, rather than only addressing the problem after it has occurred.
WE ARE CALLING FOR
- Structural workplace reforms that build power at work for women, especially women of color, including paid leave, access to quality and affordable child care, fair work schedules, and fair and adequate wages. This also includes protections for domestic workers, agricultural workers, tipped workers, gig workers, youth workers, incarcerated workers, and others.
- Increased resources for and pathways to worker organizing and collective action in every industry.
- Policymakers and enforcement agencies to center and work directly with survivors and workers when creating public policy solutions and enforcing worker protections.
- The removal of barriers to accessing justice for survivors of workplace harassment, including extending the statute of limitations for workplace discrimination and harassment claims to at least three years.
- Robust anti-harassment and anti-discrimination prevention measures in every workplace, including peer-to-peer and bystander intervention training, annual climate surveys, and independent worker committees to diagnose workplace problems and drive solutions.
- The expansion of all existing labor and employment protections to all workers, including independent contractors, temp workers, domestic workers, agricultural workers, gig workers, guest workers, and undocumented workers.
- Increased transparency to hold employers accountable and prevent employers from sweeping harassment under the rug. Prohibit employers from forcing individuals to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) or using forced arbitration to prevent workers from talking about discrimination, including harassment. Require employers to conduct annual climate assessments and report findings to the Board, to employees, and/or as part of their corporate filings, as well as to the public so that consumers and investors can make informed decisions, and publicly report harassment claims.
- More trusted, accessible, and trauma-informed systems for reporting harassment and discrimination, including the possibility of making reports to a third party, and better protections against backlash and reprimands against workers who file complaints. Ensure that undocumented individuals reporting these acts are not threatened with or subject to detention, deportation, or other legal consequences for reporting.
- Employers provide the full minimum wage before tips for tipped workers so that workers no longer have to put up with unacceptable and inappropriate behavior to be able to make a living. Also require employers to provide tipped workers paid sick days, paid family leave, and other benefits based on full wages to ensure workers can take care of themselves and their loved ones when necessary.
POLICIES THAT MOVE US FORWARD
- Pass the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act to prevent employment discrimination and harassment in the workplace by ensuring that all workers are covered by anti-discrimination laws, closing loopholes that have led courts to dismiss harassment complaints, extending the time to file a complaint, expanding the remedies available in court, and more. It would also require employers to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage before tips.
- Pass the EMPOWER Act, which would limit employers’ ability to impose nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements to cover up harassment, require publicly-traded companies to make new public disclosures about harassment judgments and settlements, provide a new avenue for employees to confidentially report harassment, and strengthen anti-harassment training programs.
- Pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, the first ever national bill that will provide concrete workplace protections for the entire care sector. This legislation addresses the exclusions of the past and establishes innovative solutions to long held problems within this sector.
- Reduce vulnerability to harassment by raising wages, including by passing the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 dollars an hour and ensure that tipped workers, workers with disabilities, and youth workers, are entitled to the same minimum wage as everybody else, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would protect against pay discrimination.
- Strengthen workers’ power to organize and address harassment collectively by passing the PRO Act.
- Reduce the workplace gender inequality that fuels sexual harassment, by passing the FAMILY Act and Healthy Families Act, to provide access to paid family and medical leave and paid sick days for all, including access to paid time off for medical and mental health care, legal proceedings, and other needed services for survivors to address sexual violence; the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who need it because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition; the Schedules That Work Act to give workers more stable and predictable work schedules that they have a voice in setting; and the Child Care for Working Families Act and Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act to ensure every family has access to high-quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities.
We believe that the people closest to the pain of these systems and histories should be at the center of and driving survivor-centered solutions.