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What’s the next step for the #MeToo movement?

Nearly 2 ½ years after the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed the criminal behavior of Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement that resulted continues to impact social, legal and employment relationships and policies across the country.

After decades of criminal behavior by the disgraced movie mogul, more than 100 of Weinstein’s victims and survivors came forward, resulting in convictions for rape and sexual assault, which led to a 23-year prison term. Weinstein currently awaits a second trial in Los Angeles.

What is the effect on employers?

Due to the Weinstein case and many others that resulted from the #MeToo movement, more people understand a broader definition of sexual harassment. Namely, where one victim exists, there are potentially many more, and misconduct can be documented in court by examples of prior behavior.

Employers are more aware that predators may resort to illegal tactics to silence, intimidate and sabotage their victims – and those activities reflect poorly on the company. They also know that an organization’s integrity may be compromised by the unethical and criminal actions of executives and managers.

Giving victims a voice

While advancements have been seen, many companies still practice a culture of coverup when it comes to sexual harassment. It happens when human resource departments brand abuse victims as “troublemakers,” and companies offer payouts under nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) as a way to silence victims.

But more victims are seeking to be released from NDAs, and companies are under more pressure to fire executives for misconduct, knowing that mishandling sexual harassment cases can result in lawsuits, federal investigations, damaging publicity and a decline in their market value amounting to years of repercussions.

#MeToo effects in California

Starting this year, the state of California took on the so-called “bro” culture by requiring that all executive boards in the state include at least one woman, and two to three female board members will be mandated by 2021.

On a national level, NBC released all former sexual misconduct plaintiffs from their NDAs in October of 2019. At the same time, California banned forced arbitration to settle claims over sexual misconduct. Many believe that’s just the beginning of a legal and societal shift in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.