Women in the workforce have constantly faced the challenges of sexism and harassment on the job. For them, it’s nothing new. Recent scrutiny of workplace harassment, assault and overall sexism in the media had caused a sharp rise in the number of women who have chosen to speak up, speak out and confront businesses, organizations and agencies where they work about the issue. Spurred by the #MeToo movement, women in the workforce are also forming alliances and groups and coming up with ways to potentially change the problem in their favor. One such group is the Seattle Silence Breakers.
According to a recent article that appeared on the Crosscut.com website, since December the group, made up of approximately 30 Seattle city employees including those from Seattle City Light, the Department of Construction, the Department of Transportation, and Inspection and Information Technology has made arrangements to get together on their own time to discuss issues that they face on the job.
What they each share is the frustration of having experienced or witnessed situations where their complaints of sexism or harassment were warranted and management or human resource departments were either unresponsive or had been set up in order to protect the city and its departments from the complaints and not the rights of the workers.
Denise Krownbell, a City Light employee who is president of Professional & Technical Employees Local 17 and who also co-chair of the newly formed group of women said in a recent interview, “Seattle Silence Breakers formed to support employees at the City who are experiencing harassment and discrimination and to work to get the City to put standards in place to end harassment and discrimination at the City,”
The formation of the Seattle Silence Breakers is timely in a number of ways. It coincides with the demise of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement. It also came to be about the time that two library workers were forced to resign as a part of their settlement alleging sexual harassment. This does not even mention the scores of others who have had to face being asked sexist questions regarding the color of their undergarments, or for those who are pregnant being asked whether they will choose their family or their career, or continually being called “honey,” or “baby” during work hours by male peers or supervisors.
While many of today’s corporations are consciously making strides to try and overcome long-ingrained cultures of sexism, racism and other biases, government agencies, particularly those at a city or municipal level seem slow to change. Even with the first woman to be elected as Mayor of Seattle since 1928, there continue to be challenges.
Shortly after taking office, Mayor Jenny Durkan demanded that city departments no longer settle any sexual harassment complaint without first notifying the centralized Department of Human Resources for at least the next 30 days. While some of the women say they welcome the change, a few say it isn’t enough. This story will continue to develop and the rest can be read at the Crosscut website.
Every complaint of sexual harassment or other forms of bias in the workplace should be taken very seriously and to keep details confidential before, during and after an investigation.
Many organizations find themselves in the middle of allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment or other issues and are unprepared to deal with it effectively. At NetPEO, we provide the full range of human resource services, including worker training to help prevent such issues and to help make it a safe environment for everyone.
Our network of companies offers a full range of services which include payroll, management of employee benefits and liability management. We also offer brokerage services and employee leasing services in order to help fill your organization’s permanent or temporary personnel needs.
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