WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, employees at Afiniti, CBS and LVMH gave personal accounts of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace that previously went unheard due to forced arbitration clauses. A few days later, a Tesla factory worker alleged that the company fostered a climate of sexual harassment that dehumanized workers, subjected women to verbal and physical harassment and failed to address the problem when complaints were filed with Tesla HR.
These stories are all too familiar —an employee is subjected to aggressive and abuse behavior and is too fearful to speak out due to fears of retribution, or from the feeling that no one would protect them. Employers protect those perpetrators in positions of power so they can protect their profits.
This workplace culture begins at the top; when CEOs exhibit misogynistic and sexist behaviors, how can their employees be punished for following suit? But this isn’t about companies like Tesla or people like Elon Musk, it’s about a rampant culture of abused power that has continued for far too long. In the tech industry alone, a survey by Accenture and Girls Who Code found that half of the women leave their jobs by the time they’re 35—with the largest percentage citing “non-inclusive company culture” as their main reason for quitting.
NOW believes that gender equity must be front and center in the workplace, and companies must prioritize employees, not just those in power. It’s vital to have more women in leadership positions who understand what it is like to experience workplace cultures like this and know what sort of environment is needed for employees to succeed.
We must transform the workplace culture that allows abusive behavior and complicity to go unpunished, and also make it easier for employees to find justice. Companies must be called out and held accountable, and we must support national policies and legislation like the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act which expands protections for workers and takes ambitious steps to prevent and address sexual harassment, including a prohibition on mandatory arbitration and pre-dispute nondisclosure agreements.
Every day that this behavior goes unchallenged is another day that we are failing women and failing workers. All women must be heard, supported and empowered. The culture of enabling, allowing and forgiving sexual harassment and violence against women must change. Enough is enough.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the nation’s leading membership-based advocacy group dedicated to defending women’s rights, advancing equality and combating injustice in all aspects of social, political and economic life. Through educating, mobilizing, and convening a vast network of grassroots activists across the country, NOW advocates for national, state and local policies that promote an anti-racist and intersectional feminist agenda. Since its founding in 1966, NOW has been on the frontlines of nearly every major advancement for women’s rights and continues to champion progressive values today. More about NOW’s efforts and resources is available at NOW.org.