The American economy has a long history of imbalance. The system pays workers too little, does not have enough oversight on employers to hold them accountable, and does not have enough emphasis on workers protections.
This is particularly true with respect to the rights afforded to women in the workforce and the prevention of sexual harassment.
Union Support for Workplace Conditions
All workers deserve a fair and safe place of work. However, many companies are more interested in the bottom-line than investments that protect workers.
Some employers misclassify workers to avoid minimum wage liability or other workplace protection laws.
Others simply refuse to compensate workers for their full work week or pay overtime premiums. Employment lawyers help keep employers honest by enforcing critical workplace protections, but unions are a great support system to help keep everyone in the workplace accountable.
Labor Protections for Women in the Workplace
Unions can protect union workers from discriminatory hiring, firing, harassment, and promotions. As a result, may labor organizations have helped women fight gender-based wage and leadership gaps.
Unions provide significant advantages to women in the labor force. They use the power of collective bargaining to advocate for increased earnings and prevent salary discrepancies. They also help curb the effects of sexual harassment by encouraging more robust responses. As a result, pro-worker policies help improve opportunities for women economy-wide.
Legal Support from Employment Lawyers
In the United States, there are laws and regulations in place to protect laborers in the workforce. At the federal level, workplace harassment based on sex, race, national origin, color, and religion is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. States also enforce anti-harassment laws that offer even greater protections.
Both state and federal laws ban workplace misconduct in the form of verbal or physical assault, which includes sexual harassment. However, these bans do not prevent such practices from occurring. Sexual harassment is an especially deep institutional problem.
Studies show that 50-80% of women in the workforce experience sexual harassment. However, only 25% of women disclose their experience, and a mere 5% file formal complaints with the assistance of an employment lawyer.
Women in the Workplace Face Barriers to Justice
There are several reasons why sexual harassment goes on unreported. Many low-wage workers are not geographically located near an employment lawyer.
Some victims of sexual harassment cannot communicate with an employment lawyer because of a language barrier.
Even greater numbers lack the financial support necessary to seek justice, or have simply lost faith in access to justice through administrative remedies or litigation.
Litigation can be a time-consuming, stressful, and costly process. Sometimes, sexual harassment cases exacerbate the plaintiff’s feeling of victimization.
For example, employment lawyers working for the defense have been known to subpoena medical, psychiatric, and other private information. Without proper assistance of legal counsel, plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases face a potentially invasive process that takes a hard toll on victims.
Furthermore, preventing employer retaliation can be a particular challenge for individuals without the sound representation of an effective employment lawyer.
Retaliation takes various forms and the purpose is to deter an employee from engaging in their legally protected activity.
Despite being barred by federal and state employment laws, many employers improperly retaliate against victims of sexual harassment for reporting their experiences.