Is sexual harassment the new normal?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is sadly becoming the new normal. While this may be shocking to some and offending to others, it is unfortunately a statement that has strong statistical roots. On the heels of the recent story regarding Fox News’ payments to settle alleged sexual harassment claims against Bill O’Reilly, we have noticed a disturbing trend of high profile sexual harassment incidents.

Less than six months ago, in the throes of the presidential election, then candidate Donald Trump was caught on camera making lewd comments about women in the workplace. The clip was instant comedy fodder for late-night comics, and was poised to derail his campaign. Yet he was eventually elected. 

Before that, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes unceremoniously left the company after a $20 million payout to settle claims lodged by anchor Gretchen Carlson. Even turning to 2017, we learned about a group of Marines that posted photos of naked female Marines without their consent.

The preceding stories exemplify the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace is just as prominent as it was five years ago. Indeed, complaints before the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) are slightly since 2012 (7,571 in 2012 compared to 6,756 in 2016), but compensation for these complaints remains over $40 million.

The point is that women are still harassed in the workplace; ostensibly either because men believe that they won’t get caught or they will eventually win a woman’s heart through their advances. Regardless, it appears that businesses have accepted sexual harassment as a cost of doing business.

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