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Are American attitudes toward sexual harassment changing?

Political pundit and Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly is topping headlines in the last few days — and for once, it has nothing to do with his politics.

It has to do with the rights of women to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace, no matter where they work or how powerful and recognizable their harassers are.

O’Reilly was arguably one of the most recognizable faces on network news and a high-powered political force — but he’s been struggling under the weight of some serious allegations of workplace sexual harassment since earlier this year. Another media personality, Wendy Walsh, claims she was forced out of the network when she declined O’Reilly’s sexual advances.

A New York Times article at the beginning of April lifted the lid on what may be a pot of long-simmering trouble, alleging that at least five women have been paid off to keep quiet about the on-the-job harassment that they’ve endured from O’Reilly over the years. By April 19, 2017, O’Reilly was ultimately let go from his position at Fox News.

Does this mean that Americans are finally fed up with workplace sexual harassment?

The answer, according to the experts who study social situations like these is, at best, “Somewhat.” Partially, Americans are no longer willing to dismiss sexual harassment on the job as just something women have to endure. The reaction is also partially an acknowledgment that women are gaining more economic power than ever before — and that means that advertisers are sensitive to how women might feel about products being advertised during the show of someone whose decades of alleged abuses may have caught up with him. Economics, say the experts, trumps morality any day — although it’s nice when the two are working together.

So what can you do if you’re being sexually harassed at work by someone powerful?

— Keep records. Write down every slur, every leer, every animalistic grunt or grab at your body.

— Speak up. Tell your abuser to stop. Make it clear that you do not find the actions flattering, charming or acceptable.

— Contact your company’s sexual harassment hotline, if they have one. However, you may need to be prepared to field pressure to take “hush money” if your harasser is highly valued.

Finally, consider contacting an attorney with experience handling sexual harassment claims in order to discuss your case.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Has America Really Become Less Tolerant Of Sexual Harassment?,” Lorraine Devon Willke, April 20, 2017

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